EPA Extends SPCC Compliance Dates Again

May 14, 2007

 This final rule extends the dates by which a facility must prepare or amend and implement its SPCC plan until July 1, 2009. EPA expects to propose further revisions to the SPCC rule in 2007. EPA has extended the compliance dates in order to provide the time necessary for the regulated community to comply with the revised requirements that EPA expects to propose in 2007.

For facilities (other than a farm) that started operations on or before Aug. 16, 2002, the facility must maintain its existing SPCC plan and amend and implement the plan no later than July 1, 2009. If the facility began operations after Aug. 16, 2002 through July 1, 2009, it must prepare and implement an SPCC plan no later than July 1, 2009. If the facility starts operations after July 1, 2009, it must prepare and implement an SPCC plan before beginning operations.

If a farm started operations on or before Aug. 16, 2002, it must maintain its existing SPCC plan and amend and implement the plan when EPA promulgates a rule specific for farms. If a farm began operations after Aug. 16, 2002, then it must prepare and implement an SPCC plan when EPA promulgates a rule specific for farms.



$157,500 Fine for Lack of Oil Spill Prevention Plan

A New Hampshire motor company faces fines for allegedly failing to plan for and guard against oil spills at its Colebrook facility and for failing to respond to EPA’s request for information about the facility.

According to a complaint filed by EPA's New England office, the Peter Nugent Motor Company did not have a spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) plan in place at its petroleum bulk storage and distribution facility, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

An inspector from EPA’s New England office inspected the Nugent bulk plant with a representative of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), and found that the company failed to construct adequate secondary containment around its aboveground storage tanks, truck off-loading area, and loading rack, leading to a risk of a spill to surface waters in the event of discharges during transfer operations or from equipment failure. Due to the location of the Colebrook facility, spills at the tank farm could contaminate the Connecticut River.

The Nugent facility also stores gasoline on-site and is located within the well radius of the Town of Colebrook’s sole source public drinking water supply serving a population of 1,200 people. Spills at this bulk plant could lead to contamination of the public drinking water aquifer.

Following the inspection of the facility by EPA and NHDES, the company failed to respond to requests for additional information. The company also failed to prepare an SPCC plan, did not construct the required spill containment systems, and failed to conduct integrity inspections on tanks in excess of 50 years old.

“Oil spills can do significant damage to the environment, including to neighboring drinking water wells,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. “EPA will continue to ensure that facilities handling oils must follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills.”

Spill prevention and control laws help ensure that a tank failure or spill does not lead to oil being released into drinking water wells, rivers, or streams. For the alleged violations of SPCC requirements, the company faces a maximum penalty of $157,500.

Smart Voluntarily Discloses Environmental Violations, Pays Lesser Penalty

Kmart will pay a $102,422 fine to settle self-disclosed violations of federal environmental regulations discovered at 17 distribution centers in 13 states. The company reported violations of clean water, hazardous waste, and emergency planning and preparedness regulations to the EPA. If EPA had discovered Kmart's violations through an inspection, the company would have faced a fine of more than $1.6 million.

Our top priority is to protect the environment and public health. We have a variety of tools and options to do that,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In this case, Kmart discovered its own violations and came forward with a plan to fix the problems.”

Kmart has corrected the violations found during a 2004 audit conducted by outside consultants. The company prepared and implemented spill prevention control and countermeasures plans, applied for appropriate storm water permits, complied with hazardous waste generator requirements, and submitted reports to state and local emergency planning and response organizations informing them of the presence of hazardous substances.

The company discovered violations at distribution centers located in the following cities: Billerica, Mass.; Canton, Mich.; Chambersburg, Pa.; Denver/Brighton, Colo.; Forest Park, Ga.; Greensboro, N.C.; Groveport, Calif.; Lawrence, Kan.; Manteno, Ill.; Mira Loma, Calif.; Morrisville/Fairless Hills, Pa.; Newnan, Ga.; Ocala, Fla.; Ontario, Calif.; Shakopee, Minn.; Sparks, Nev.; and Warren, Ohio.

Kmart audited its programs under an EPA policy that provides incentives to companies that discover, disclose, and correct environmental violations.  EPA often reduces or waives penalties for certain violations if the facility meets the conditions of the policy. EPA will not waive or reduce penalties for repeat violations, or violations that resulted in serious harm, or presented an imminent or substantial endangerment to human health or the environment. Kmart is required to pay the penalty by June 1, 2007.


EPA Settles Asbestos Case with Construction Consultant

The EPA reached a $20,000 settlement with a construction consultant for violating federal regulations governing asbestos removal from buildings in Hayward, Calif., in 2000.

The construction consultant, Timothy Chu Construction Consulting Services, is paying a penalty of $20,000. Settlements were previously reached with the building owner, Cheng, Chow and Chu, Inc, for $149,000 and the construction company, Sincere Construction, for $1,500. The asbestos removal was also the subject of a criminal investigation which resulted in a plea agreement under which the building owner Clifford Cheng served four months under house arrest and paid a $5,000 criminal penalty.

“This case was particularly important because of the large amounts of asbestos and the delay in mitigating the problem,” said Deborah Jordan, director of the Air Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “We are pleased that all responsible parties were held accountable, and acknowledge the fine work of the Bay Area AQMD inspectors that was so crucial to making this case.”

Asbestos is a known environmental carcinogen that the EPA has determined is a hazardous air pollutant. It presents a significant risk to human health as a result of air emissions. Individuals exposed to asbestos fibers can contract illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

In August 2000, Cheng, Chow and Chu hired Sincere Construction to remove regulated asbestos-containing materials such as acoustic ceiling, tiles, linoleum, insulation, fire-proofing, and stucco from the former Hayward Chiropractic College located on Maple Court and Main Street in Hayward. Timothy Chu Construction Consulting Services was hired to oversee the work. Ultimately, more than 31,000 square feet of asbestos-containing material was removed from the building.

In September 2000, Bay Area Air Quality Management District investigators inspected the facility and saw workers using wheelbarrows to dump dry construction debris in open containers, creating clouds of dust and leaving wheelbarrow tracks. Sampling showed the debris was friable asbestos.

EPA and Bay Area Air District investigators uncovered numerous asbestos emission and disposal violations in the building. Investigators verified that the asbestos was not kept wet and emissions to the outside air were apparent. In addition, neither Sincere Construction nor Timothy Chu Construction Consulting Services was a certified asbestos contractor as required by law.

Despite repeated inspections, the asbestos remained unabated until October 20, 2000.

Draft Report on the Environment Released

The draft 2007 Report on the Environment Science Report ) was released for public comment and external review by the Science Advisory Board (SAB). The draft report consists of two documents; one for the science community – the ROE Science Report, and a second for all citizens – Highlights of National Trends 2007. The information from both ROE 2007 documents also will be available on an interactive, searchable Web site called the “e-ROE.”

The report compiles the latest and most reliable indicators to help understand critical trends in the environment and human health. Additionally, the report identifies key limitations of these indicators and gaps where reliable indicators do not yet exist. These gaps and limitations highlight the disparity between the current state of knowledge and the goal of full, reliable, and insightful representation of environmental conditions and trends, and provide direction for future research and monitoring efforts.

EPA Reaches $44,600 Settlement with Auto Dealer for Used Oil Violations

Michael Hatch of Mike Hatch Jeep in Juneau, Ala., has reached a $44,600 settlement with the EPA to resolve failures to properly manage used oil at his facility. An inspection of the dealership and reviews of company records by EPA found a number of used oil violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at Mike Hatch Jeep. Mike Hatch Jeep was cooperative with EPA, resulting in a quick settlement and has since certified that they have corrected these violations.

According to Mike Bussell, EPA’s director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, businesses that accept used oil for energy recovery through burning in space heaters (very common in Alaska), need to be aware of the regulations.

“Burning contaminated oil can easily expose others to harmful pollutants,” said Bussell. “Properly managing used oil is absolutely critical to protecting the community and the environment. Companies handling used oil must comply with the law or face penalties.”

Federal regulations allow for recycling and burning of used oil for energy recovery, provided that certain requirements are followed. 

Science Labs Get Down with Energy

Energy-swollen science laboratories in the United States are slimming down. In a program known as Laboratories for the 21st Century, or Labs21, a growing number of such facilities are exposing their energy hogs to the environmental equivalent of low-fat diets to cut down their energy consumption.

A joint venture of the EPA and the Department of Energy, Labs21 has enlisted some of the biggest laboratory operators in the land in an effort to corral energy consumption and cut attendant costs. Many factors, large and small, have contributed to the saving of 533 trillion BTUs, or enough energy to power about 14,500 homes annually. On a square-foot basis, laboratories can consume 10 times the energy of a typical office building.

The path to energy efficiency in laboratories may take many directions. Some of the steps labs are taking to slim down include:

  • Installing energy- and water-efficient equipment
  • Incorporating sustainable design elements into new construction projects
  • Improving operation and maintenance techniques
  • Recovering exhaust heat energy and processing cooling water energy recovery
  • Cogeneration
  • Using geothermal ground source heat pump systems for space heating, air conditioning, and water heating

One culprit, the traditional fume hood, which maintains safe air quality in a laboratory, can gulp as much energy in a year as three American households — and many U.S. laboratories have more than 50 fume hoods in a single building. The Labs21 solution is straightforward: install fume hoods that provide air flow only when the device is in use.

Labs21 is no fad diet. The program has expanded since its inception in 1999 to include 79 chemical and biological laboratories that occupy 13.7 million square feet. Participating labs are saving up to 30-50% on their energy bills compared with those not participating, and the savings go straight to the bottom line: a potential $390-$650 million a year.

As the “green labs” concept broadens, new laboratory construction is achieving significant reductions in energy use when compared with older facilities. Under the program, Labs21 partners and two EPA labs have been certified gold in the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. The Labs21 high-performance, low-energy design methods can help laboratory owners meet and exceed their energy and sustainability goals.

Others are watching from afar. There are currently seven Labs21 supporters from Canada, one from Australia, and another from Hong Kong. International attendance at the Labs21 Conference is increasing each year as well. The Labs21 2006 Annual Conference was host to attendees from the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, China, Japan, Canada, and Taiwan. In addition Australia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union are making plans to launch their own versions of Labs21 patterned after the EPA/DOE model. The Labs21 2007 Annual Conference will convene October 2-4 in Charleston, S.C.

The conference, which has drawn more than 3,000 attendees since 1999, is one of the avenues Labs21 uses to reach professionals and owners in the laboratory and high-technology building industry. Team members also teach lab-design courses, present at laboratory-related events, and generate materials for use within the scientific community. Additionally, 158 architecture, engineering, design, construction, and other related organizations (“supporters”) have agreed to promote Labs21 and sustainable design principles to their clients, colleagues, and the public.

EPA Scientist Illustrates How Bugs Can Signal Pollution in a Stream

EPA's Wheeling freshwater biology team's Greg Pond and Jesuit Professor Ben Stout shared a public presentation entitled “Bugs Don't Lie! Aquatic Insects Report Stream Pollution” on April 29, at the Oglebay Institute's Schrader Environmental Center, as part of a Science Serving the Environment lecture series. Attendees included local citizens, biology students and professors from West Liberty State College (W. Liberty, W.V.). The talk also focused on macroinvertebrates as indicators of water pollution and Clean Water Act programs where bioassesment data is used.

$45,000 Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Steve Owens announced that Clean Harbors Arizona, LLC (Clean Harbors) has agreed to pay a $45,000 penalty for hazardous waste violations at the company's south Phoenix facility.

Clean Harbors operates a hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility in south Phoenix. ADEQ's hazardous waste inspectors observed several violations of environmental regulations during an inspection in July 2005. ADEQ issued a notice of violation to Clean Harbors in September 2005, citing several hazardous waste violations including failure to conduct daily inspections of tanks, failure to transfer hazardous waste from a leaking or compromised container, failure to amend the contingency plan, and failure to minimize the possibility of fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste.

Two violations were repeat violations initially discovered during an inspection of the facility in 2004, for which the company received a notice of violation in September 2004.

“These were serious violations of our hazardous waste laws,” Owens said. “Clean Harbors must ensure that violations like these do not occur again.” “I am committed to enforcing the laws that protect human health and the environment. Companies that violate these laws will be held accountable,” Goddard said.

Clean Harbors' Phoenix facility is located at 1340 West Lincoln Street. The consent judgment is subject to court approval.

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk, Pay a $95,000 Penalty

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Darigold, Inc. $95,000 for repeatedly violating water-quality permit requirements and failing to meet operations, maintenance, and spill notification requirements.

Located on Depot Road in Lynden, Darigold, previously known as Westfarm Foods, operates a powdered milk production plant. This facility discharges to the city of Lynden’s wastewater treatment plant and to the Nooksack River.

Darigold failed to follow proper operating, maintenance, and notification procedures during a February 2007 milk spill that discharged polluted water to the city of Lynden. The spill caused the wastewater treatment plant to malfunction, resulting in the release of polluted, mostly untreated sewage to the Nooksack River.

Darigold also violated its water-quality permit six times between August and October 2006 by discharging water containing suspended solids. This limit was placed on Darigold’s discharges to ensure that the Lynden sewage treatment plant is able to effectively treat domestic wastewater from the city of Lynden. An excess of suspended solids can overload the treatment plant and send partially untreated sewage into the river.

In addition, in November 2006, Darigold discharged water with a temperature of 100 degrees directly into the Nooksack River. This put at risk the fish and freshwater organisms that need cool water to survive.

“Darigold has a history of permit violations. The facility’s water-quality permit is designed to protect the Nooksack River,” stated Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ecology’s regional water quality manager.” By violating conditions of its permit, Darigold puts at risk the health of the Nooksack, local salmon populations, and the many economic interests dependent on the river.”

The Nooksack River provides habitat for several fish species, including ten native salmonids. Chum and chinook salmon use the river for spawning. These and other species also use the Nooksack as a corridor to prime spawning habitats upstream.

“Darigold takes these violations very seriously,” stated Darigold’s senior vice president and general counsel, Steve Rowe. “We have just received the penalty and are currently reviewing the details. Darigold is committed to working closely with Ecology to clearly outline procedures that will protect the Nooksack River and prevent any future permit violations.”

$24,000 Penalty for Illegal Dumping

A penalty of nearly $24,000 was assessed to Shamrock Demolition Waste Haulers of Louisiana for illegally disposing of solid waste. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality investigated a citizen’s complaint concerning illegally dumped waste at a site on Grant Street in eastern New Orleans and discovered Shamrock in violation of solid waste rules.

The site, along with more than 150 others along the Almonaster Corridor, was also documented during a two-part investigation into solid waste and other environmental issues in the area which has historically been home to several illegal dump sites.

“We have penalties going out to many other site operators, land owners and debris haulers as part of an on-going statewide solid waste initiative,” said DEQ Assistant Secretary Harold Leggett. “The department’s focus has been on the New Orleans East area because of the historical abuse of this area and increased dumping following Katrina. With the help of the Public Service Commission, the New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana National Guard, EPA and other state and federal agencies, we want to make sure people think twice before illegally accepting, dumping or hauling solid waste.”

Leggett went on to say that the state’s penalty is only part of the deterrent. “When the city seizes someone’s vehicle or when the federal government pulls a contract, that builds upon what we are trying to do,” he said. “Those people who participate in illegal activity took extra notice when the Public Service Commission and the National Guard participated in the April sting operations. This penalty against Shamrock is important and there could be more to come as state, federal and local agencies work together to curb illegal dumping statewide. “

Presstek, Inc. Fined $80,000 for Environmental Releases in South Hadley

Presstek, Inc., a South Hadley, Mass., lithograining company with operations on New Ludlow Road in South Hadley, has been assessed a penalty of $80,000 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for violating environmental regulations in June and October of 2006. The October incident caused the release of toxic vapors to the surrounding neighborhood and resulted an unprecedented emergency response.

To address incidents such as Presstek and the chemical plant explosion that occurred last November in Danvers, MassDEP and the state Department of Fire Services (DFS) last week announced a pilot program that will involve joint facility inspections seeking to identify and correct potential industrial chemical hazards that may present an imminent threat to surrounding neighborhoods. Up to 40 facility inspections will be conducted in the first phase of the initiative.

“Both South Hadley and Danvers experienced catastrophic impacts that happened at small- to medium-sized industrial facilities,” MassDEP Acting Commissioner Arleen O'Donnell said. “While we can't promise to find every potential threat, this joint inspection program will ensure that we have made the effort to work with companies to discover and abate imminent hazards that threaten public safety, the health of our communities, and the environment.”

In South Hadley, MassDEP was notified on Oct. 30, 2006, by public safety agencies of a spill of sulfuric acid at the Presstek facility at 755 New Ludlow Road. A large release of sulfuric acid had occurred inside the chemical storage room at the facility through a leak in storage tank piping. A chemical reaction resulted, generating significant quantities of sulfuric acid vapor that was released to the ambient air.

The vapor release resulted in the partial closure of New Ludlow Road, and in temporary evacuation of neighboring businesses and residences. Response actions to address the release and imminent hazards associated with the release were undertaken by responders from federal, state, and local agencies. The release was stabilized on Friday, Nov. 3, 2006, and Presstek retained a hazardous materials contractor to complete cleanup of the facility.

Following the incident, MassDEP conducted a detailed investigation, working cooperatively with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and local officials. MassDEP also required Presstek to retain an expert third party to determine the cause of the spill. The conclusions of the investigation identified a number of deficiencies that may have contributed to the release, including inadequate stirring and cooling mechanisms in the chemical mixing tank, insufficient heat resistant tank and appurtenances, hardware and wiring corrosion, operator error, and inadequate safety/shut-off controls.

“The cooperative effort with other federal, state, and local agencies during this event carried over during the investigation,” said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. “In particular, during the investigation phase, representatives from OSHA, the South Hadley Fire Department, and the South Hadley Police Department worked cooperatively with MassDEP to determine the cause of the release.”

Presstek was penalized for failing to immediately notify MassDEP of the spill, for causing a condition of air pollution by discharging the vapors to the atmosphere, for failing to store hazardous materials in a manner that would prevent the discharge, and for violating the conditions of an air pollution permit issued by MassDEP that was in effect prior to the incident.

Ohio EPA Proposes Rules to Control Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

Ohio EPA has proposed new rules to significantly reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from large fossil-fuel-burning power plants and industrial boilers. The rules will be the subject of a public meeting on May 17, 2007.

The hearing will begin at 2:00 p.m. at Ohio EPA, Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town St., Suite 700, Columbus.

The rules would establish a cap and trade program for nitrogen oxide emissions and set a total nitrogen oxide emissions “cap” for the state of Ohio. The rules also establish a mechanism for discounting sulfur dioxide allowances under the existing acid rain program.

Ohio's proposed rule would adopt a model rule that U.S. EPA provided to states. The federal rules are known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). The rules would set the first cap at 2009, and a more stringent cap in 2015. By 2015, NOx emissions would decrease by 77% and sulfur dioxide emissions would decrease by 82% from 2003 levels.

Comments or questions on the proposed CAIR rules go to Lee Burkleca, 614-728-1344, lee.burkleca@epa.state.oh.us. Written comments may be mailed to Ohio EPA Division of Air Pollution Control, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, no later than May 17, 2007. Ohio EPA will consider all comments before any rule changes are adopted.

Texas Approves Fines Totaling $473,331

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved penalties totaling $473,331 against 68 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations. Agreed orders were issued in the following enforcement categories: one drinking water quality, one water quality, one agricultural, 21 air quality, nine dry-cleaner, three multi-media, five municipal solid waste, five municipal solid waste discharge, 11 petroleum storage tank, and five public water systems. Default orders were issued in the following categories: one dry-cleaner, one multi-media, one on-site sewage facility, one petroleum storage tank, and two public water system.

New Biofuels Proposal

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced the Advanced Clean Fuels Act of 2007 in the United States Senate to help solve global warming by promoting sustainably produced bio-energy as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce America’s addiction to oil, according to policy experts and scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

NRDC Legislative Director Karen Wayland issued the following statement in support of the legislation, “This bill recognizes the critical role bio-energy can play in reducing our dangerous dependence on oil, but it also includes necessary protections for public health, lands, water, wildlife and climate.”

Maryland Department of the Environment Issues 12 Waste Management Enforcement Actions

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Waste Management Administration issued 12 enforcement actions between April 1 and April 30, 2007. 


Michigan, Missouri, Montana and Utah Join Multi-state Effort to Address Climate Change

Utah, Michigan, Montana, and Missouri are joining with thirty other states as charter members of The Climate Registry, marking the largest multi-state effort to address climate change. The newly formed organization will assist in measuring, tracking, and verifying emissions of greenhouse gases, the gases that cause climate change. It also will provide the measurement and reporting infrastructure to support voluntary, mandatory, market-based, and emissions reduction programs that are consistent across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will begin to accept reporting data in January 2008.

Dianne Nielsen, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, has been tapped to represent Utah on the Registry. “Utah is proud to be among the founding members of the Climate Registry. This is a positive step in building collaborative and responsive options for addressing the issue of climate change,” Governor Huntsman said. “The Climate Registry is Earth-friendly and business-friendly and shows state leadership to address climate change. Utah is proud to be a founding member and looks forward to taking actions to protect our children's future.”

“This is an important step for Michigan, and for the nation, in encouraging the reduction of greenhouse gases,” said Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven E. Chester. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with companies around the state to improve the quality of our air and the environment.”

“We are pleased to be a part of this effort,” said Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Doyle Childers. “It makes sense for states to work together to jointly develop a platform for greenhouse gas reporting. By pooling our efforts, we will save money and end up with a more useful program.”

“Participating in The Climate Registry is another important step forward in Montana's efforts to address climate change,” stated Richard Opper, director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “Formation of The Climate Registry is another example of state's taking the leadership we've failed to see yet from the federal government.”

Opper said the joining the registry will complement the work already being done by the Governor's Climate Change Advisory Committee. Using a registry to obtain and share data on GHG emissions has already emerged as one of the committee's preliminary recommendations for addressing climate change in Montana because it lays the foundation for further actions.

The list of charter members also includes the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Main, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Campo Kumeyaay Nation. Two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, also have committed to participate.

This is a voluntary program for states and businesses with the opportunity to get credit for early reductions of greenhouse gases. By working together, registry members are laying the foundation for climate actions that will benefit generations to come.

Easy Way to Reduce Waste Paper

The mailings end up in the trash and take time for mailroom personnel to sort. By submitting the names of your former employees, mailers that are members of the coalition will stop mailing to them, saving paper, trees, time, and money. Better yet, there is no charge for this service.

Lawsuit Seeking Stronger Energy Efficiency Standards for Commercial Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), represented by Earthjustice, and the state of Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for failing to strengthen what they consider to be weak and outdated energy efficiency standards for commercial heating and cooling equipment. The suit challenges DOE's standards allowing these products to continue to waste both energy and money, and generate thousands of needless tons of air pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“Strong efficiency performance standards are the antidote to America's ailing energy system,” said David B. Goldstein, Air & Energy director for NRDC. “Energy efficiency – a technology we have available to us right now – will help curb global warming, maximize energy savings, and protect consumers and the environment. Technology, science, and the law demand that we act now to move cleaner and greener products into the marketplace. The DOE needs take its blinders off and step out of the way of America's progress.”

DOE adopted the standards for new air conditioners, heat pumps, and similar products commonly used in offices, schools and other commercial facilities on March 7. The standards are weaker than recommended by experts at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a professional group recognized by Congress as an authority on energy efficiency.

The final March 2007 rules represent a complete about-face from a 2006 DOE proposal to adopt the substantially stronger ASHRAE standards. DOE claims the sudden reversal is justified by provisions of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, but Massachusetts, Earthjustice and NRDC say the law was designed to promote more conservation, not less.

Improvements in energy efficiency can substantially reduce the need for new coal-fired power production. There are currently more than 100 coal-fired power plants proposed for construction across the United States. These new plants would lead to millions of tons of additional air pollutants, including soot, smog, and carbon dioxide emissions. Stronger standards for air conditioners and heat pumps also will improve the bottom line for businesses and schools that would see a reduction in their monthly utility bills if these improvements were adopted.

Wal-Mart Announces Mercury Reduction in Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced that it will dramatically lower the amount of mercury in the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) sold in Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs. Wal-Mart estimates that the new reductions will effectively remove an average of 360 pounds of mercury per 100 million CFLs sold in its stores and clubs, a reduction of 33% (based on 13W bulbs).

“Wal-Mart is committed to selling only ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs that are safe for our customers and great for the environment,” said Andy Ruben, vice president of strategy and sustainability for Wal-Mart. “By partnering with our manufacturers, we are achieving mercury reductions in CFLs before they reach our store shelves. We're starting at the source to make sure our bulbs have the least amount of mercury possible. The reductions will ensure that consumers can take advantage of the financial and environmental benefits of CFLs now. Today's action is a great win for the environment and our customers.”

To reduce the amount of mercury in its CFLs, Wal-Mart worked closely with manufacturers GE, Royal Philips, Osram Sylvania, and Lights of America. All four suppliers committed to achieving a greater reduction in mercury content than the 5 mg standard set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) earlier this year. These suppliers also will adhere to clean production techniques that will minimize mercury pollution from factories manufacturing CFLs.

“People concerned about the environment and their health can buy these CFLs with a clear conscience,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “With the commitments announced today, the amount of mercury in each bulb will become vanishingly small. Clean production techniques for manufacturing the bulbs will further boost the environmental benefit. In fact, the energy savings delivered through the use of CFLs will actually reduce more mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants than is added through manufacture of the bulbs.”

According to the U.S. EPA, coal-fired power plants emit four times more mercury to power an incandescent bulb than to power a CFL; emitting 13.6 mg of mercury compared to just 3.3 mg for a CFL. Wal-Mart's new standard will ensure that the bulbs sold in its stores and clubs contain less than 5 mg of mercury. The reduction is another step in Wal-Mart's campaign to sell 100 million CFLs by 2008. Converting just one conventional light bulb to a CFL can save up to $30 in electric costs over its lifetime, prevent more than 110 lbs. of coal from being burned, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 450 lbs.

Supplier Commitments:

  • GE Consumer & Industrial will reduce CFL mercury content up to 50% from NEMA levels in new products, while maintaining the excellent light quality and long life that GE customers expect.
  • Philips currently supplies Wal-Mart with CFLs that have mercury contents 40 to 60% below the NEMA level of 5 mg per unit (for CFLs less than 25W). Philips utilizes pellet dosing versus liquid mercury to ensure safe and accurate levels of mercury per bulb, and continues to look for ways to reduce the amount of mercury in its CFL, while still maintaining the lamps' high quality and performance characteristics.
  • OSRAM SYLVANIA CFLs currently meet the NEMA standard of 5 mg of mercury, with reflector lamps that are 40% lower at 3 mg. Sylvania has committed to reducing the mercury content in all of its CFLs to 4 mg or less by the end of 2007, and to 2.5 mg by the end of 2008.
  • Lights of America will reduce the amount of mercury in its CFLs by up to 50 percent. Wal-Mart's new standards have resulted in Lights of America identifying a different metal alloy technology that improves bulb performance while requiring less mercury per bulb. This technology is currently being added to Lights of America CFLs and the company expects all of its bulbs to have no more than 2 mg of mercury by the end of 2007.

New EPA Report Shows Significant Environmental Progress By Performance Track Members

From newspaper headlines to the covers of Fortune 500 reports, we are reading about more and more companies working to outdo each other in “going green,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “EPA’s Performance Track partners are ready, willing, and able to go well beyond mandated requirements – proving that doing what’s good for the environment is also good for the bottom line.”

The Performance Track Fifth Annual Progress Report details members’ environmental accomplishments from 2000 – 2005. The cumulative results show members reducing their water use by 3.5 billion gallons, greenhouse gas emissions by 97,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, hazardous waste generation by 130,000 tons, and non-hazardous waste generation by 600,000 tons. Members also have restored or protected more than 14,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

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, who include major corporations, small businesses, and public facilities, typically set four public, measurable goals to improve the quality of our nation’s air, water, and land. Since the program’s inception in June 2000, Performance Track membership has grown to more than 450 facilities in 46 states and Puerto Rico, and members have made more than 1,500 commitments to the environment.

To recognize top leaders in the Performance Track program, Johnson is presenting annual awards at a dinner in New Orleans. Environmental performance awards are being presented to McNeil PPC, Lititz, Pa.; Siltronic Corp., Portland, Ore.; DENSO Manufacturing Michigan, Battle Creek, Mich.; and Montenay Bay LLC, Panama City, Fla. EPA made its selection based on members’ progress toward achieving environmental performance goals and the breadth and challenge of these goals. EPA’s selection also took into account, among other things, the member’s compliance history and community outreach efforts.

The winners for extraordinary efforts in outreach are the Virginia Performance Track Member Outreach Group (represented by International Paper, Franklin, Va.; Dupont Spruance Plant, Richmond, Va.; and Lockheed Martin, Manassas, Va.); Brookhaven Science Associations, Upton, N.Y.; Arizona Chemical Co., Port St. Joe, Fla.; Coca-Cola North America, Ontario, Calif.; and Forever Resorts Black Canyon/Willow Beach River Adventures, Boulder City, Nev. Outreach award winners make a special effort to inform the public on what it means to be a Performance Track member through presentations, promotional materials, and employee awareness.

Two state agencies, the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Water Quality Division, and the State of West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water and Waste Management, are receiving special recognition for supporting Performance Track and its members. Colorado worked with a Kodak facility on a watershed monitoring and stakeholder involvement program on the Cache la Poudre River, while West Virginia collaborated with Dow West Virginia to provide incentives that enable the facility to pursue an ambitious set of sustainability goals.

In addition, Administrator Johnson will officially welcome 87 new facilities that have joined Performance Track since May 2006. The awards dinner was held in conjunction with the fourth annual National Environmental Partnership Summit, a collaborative event involving the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable, the Compliance Assistance Providers’ Forum and the Performance Track Participants’

Senators Propose Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation establishing a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard that would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the short- and long-term. The bill requires a reduction of about 180 million metric tons in emissions in 2020 – the equivalent of taking more than 30 million cars off the road. The Obama-Harkin fuel standard embraces the growth of the renewable fuels market, including corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel as a key component of fighting climate change, while providing incentives for lower carbon emissions in their production.

“It's time to act on climate change,” said Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We've got to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions from our vehicles need to be a part of that. This bill sets a standard that establishes a steady downward trend for life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of our transportation fuels. Because biofuels generally have lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, this bill also promotes rural economic development and national energy security.”

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles is one of the most aggressive and immediate steps we can take to fight climate change,” said Senator Obama. “Expanding the renewable fuels market in the United States will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, revitalize our agricultural sector, and provide a sustainable means to combat global warming. A homegrown solution to the international climate crisis lies in America's fields and farms.“

The U.S. relies on imports for 60% of the petroleum it consumes, and the oil used in the U.S. transportation sector accounts for one-third of our nation's emissions of greenhouse gases. Senators Obama and Harkin have introduced a bill establishing a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (NLCFS) that will reduce both our dependence on foreign oil and our greenhouse gas emissions.

The National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Act of 2007 will:

  • Provide near-term demand certainty to renewable fuel producers. The Renewable Fuel Standard in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 will be expanded in the near-term to require 15 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012.
  • Expand the market for low-carbon fuels over the long-term. The NLCFS requires fuel refiners that produce petroleum-based fuels to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the transportation fuels sold in the U.S. by 5% in 2015 and 10% in 2020. Because most biofuels have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, the NLCFS will greatly expand the market for renewable fuels such as corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel while providing incentives for lower carbon emissions in their production. By one estimate, the NLCFS will create a market for over 40 billion gallons of biofuels by 2020.
  • Drive the production of ultra-low carbon fuels. The bill requires fuel refiners to use minimum amounts of fuels with 50 and 75% lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. This requirement signals to investors that there will be a market for advanced fuels, but still allows significant leeway for fuel refiners to choose the optimal mix of fuels to meet their overall greenhouse gas emissions targets.
  • Utilize a credit trading mechanism. Fuel refiners can trade allowances or bank them against future carbon reduction requirements.
  • Ensure an environmentally sustainable biofuels expansion. The bill ensures that the expansion of biofuels production does not impact national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests, old-growth forests, or national grasslands. The bill calls for an assessment of the impacts of the expansion, including a comparison to the business-as-usual scenario of continued reliance on petroleum-based transportation fuels, and the development of standards by 2012 to protect air, land, and water quality.
  • Achieve a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. According to one estimate, the NLCFS would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020. This is the equivalent of taking more than 30 million cars off the road in 2020. If enacted in conjunction with a bill (S. 768) proposed by Senator Obama to raise fuel efficiency standards, the NLCFS would reduce emissions by about 530 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, the equivalent of taking over 50 million cars off the road.
  • Achieve a major reduction in oil imports. By making greater use of home-grown, renewable fuels, the NLCFS could reduce the annual consumption of gasoline derived from foreign oil imports by about 30 billion gallons in 2020.

Top 10 Stupid Environmental Policies


 Also read their lament on the shrinking EPA budget.


EPA Resumes Dismantling Library System

Despite promises to consult with Congress before proceeding with dismantlement of its library system, the U.S. EPA has ordered its libraries to “disperse or dispose of their…contents,” according to agency directives released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The move to eliminate physical collections comes as EPA’s own enforcement branch warns about the risks of hampering environmental prosecutions.

issued by EPA on April 10:

  • Directs EPA libraries to “disperse or dispose of” their physical collections and lays out procedures for offering EPA holdings to outside libraries and for recycling journals and other technical documents;
  • Places all EPA libraries, including those serving agency laboratories, under a single political appointee, Molly O’Neill, the Chief Information Officer; and
  • “Discourage establishment of divisional or branch ‘mini-libraries’” to prevent the physical accumulation of technical materials except at pre-designated “repositories.”

“Significantly, the end users of the EPA libraries – the agency’s own specialists as well as the academic community and the public – have been excluded from all decisions about the future of this incomparable network,” stated PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg, pointing to the fact that a major labor union is pursuing an unfair labor practice complaint over EPA’s failure to even consult with agency scientists over library closures.

 The memo outlines the “three primary issues that OECA is concerned about”—1) information access, especially to original documents; 2) timeliness of services, worrying that the centralized system EPA is espousing may not be able to meet tight court-imposed deadlines; 3) cost and funding, pointing out that uncertainties surround how much EPA’s centralized all-digital system will cost and how it will be funded.

“EPA is determined to leap before it looks as it barrels ahead to shut libraries,” added Goldberg, noting that nearly one-third of EPA’s 27-library network has been closed or had services reduced. “EPA has declared war on libraries and the services they provide without offering an adequate substitute.”

In an extraordinary mass letter of protest last June, labor representatives for more than half of all EPA staff ascribed the agency’s drive to remove physical collections from libraries as an attempt to “suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics.”

Radical Engine Redesign would Reduce Pollution, Oil Consumption

Researchers have created the first computational model to track engine performance from one combustion cycle to the next for a new type of engine that could dramatically reduce oil consumption and the emission of global-warming pollutants. “We're talking about a major leap in engine technology that could be used in hybrid cars to make vehicles much more environmentally friendly and fuel stingy,” said Gregory M. Shaver, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

A key portion of his research, based at Purdue's Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, hinges on designing engines so that their intake and exhaust valves are no longer driven by mechanisms connected to the pistons. The innovation would be a departure from the way automotive engines have worked since they were commercialized more than a century ago.

In today's internal combustion engines, the pistons turn a crankshaft, which is linked to a camshaft that opens and closes the valves, directing the flow of air and exhaust into and out of the cylinders. The new method would eliminate the mechanism linking the crankshaft to the camshaft, providing an independent control system for the valves.

Because the valves' timing would no longer be restricted by the pistons' movement, they could be more finely tuned to allow more efficient combustion of diesel, gasoline, and alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, Shaver said.

The concept, known as variable valve actuation, would enable significant improvements in conventional gasoline and diesel engines used in cars and trucks and for applications such as generators, he said. The technique also enables the introduction of an advanced method called homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI, which would allow the United States to drastically reduce its dependence on foreign oil and the production of harmful exhaust emissions.

The homogeneous charge compression ignition technique would make it possible to improve the efficiency of gasoline engines by 15 to 20 percent, making them as efficient as diesel engines while nearly eliminating smog-generating nitrogen oxides, Shaver said.

This improved combustion efficiency also would reduce emission of two other harmful gases contained in exhaust: global-warming carbon dioxide and unburned hydrocarbons. The method allows for the more precise control of the fuel-air mixture and combustion inside each cylinder, eliminating “fuel rich” pockets seen in conventional diesel engines, resulting in little or no emission of pollutants called particulates, a common environmental drawback of diesels.

The variable valve actuation system makes it possible to “reinduct,” or reroute a portion of the exhaust back into the cylinders to improve combustion efficiency and reduce emissions. The system also makes it possible to alter the amount of compression in the cylinders of both conventional and HCCI engines and to adjust the mixing and combustion timing, allowing for more efficient combustion.

“Variable valve actuation and HCCI would help to significantly reduce our dependence on oil by enabling engines to work better with ethanol and biodiesel and other alternative fuels,” Shaver said. “But accomplishing this is going to require a strong effort in several research areas – a commitment of funding, people power, industrial involvement, and academic involvement.”

In HCCI, the “charge,” or fuel-air mixture, is homogeneous, meaning it is uniform. Adding the reinducted exhaust both dilutes and increases the temperature of this air-fuel mixture before compression. The process also allows for a uniform “auto ignition,” or combustion without the need of a spark, at a lower compression than normally required for diesel engines, reducing engine wear and tear.

Inside the cylinders of ordinary internal combustion engines, there is a large temperature difference, or gradient, between portions of the air-fuel mixture that have been ignited and portions that are still not burned. The homogeneous fuel-air mixture and reinducted exhaust work together to eliminate this temperature gradient during the auto-ignition, which decreases the overall combustion temperature. Decreasing the combustion temperature is a key step in dramatically reducing nitrogen oxides.

Shaver, his colleagues, and students are in the process of building a one-of-a-kind multicylinder engine design with “fully-flexible variable valve actuation,” which will allow the study of HCCI and alternative fuel combustion, he said.

He was the lead author of a research paper honored with the 2006 Rudolf Kalman Paper Award for the best paper published in the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control. The award was issued last year during the International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Exposition in Chicago. The paper detailed findings related to a new mathematical model to help develop the homogeneous charge compression ignition system.

In order for the system to work, it is critical to track changing engine performance from one combustion cycle to the next. The mathematical model Shaver has developed is the first of its kind to precisely track this dynamic cycle-to-cycle performance and other data.

The highest efficiency would be realized by combining HCCI technologies in hybrid vehicles that use an electric motor in addition to an internal combustion engine.

“It's essential to continue research on multiple fronts, including work to tackle problems associated with fuel cells and hybrid systems and understanding how to incorporate the advanced combustion engines on hybrid powertrains,” he said.

U.S. petroleum imports are predicted to increase about 35% by 2030. At the same time, the transportation-related emission of carbon dioxide is expected to rise by about 35% in the United States.

The authors of the paper published last year in the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control were Shaver; J. Christian Gerdes, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University; Matthew J. Roelle, a graduate student at Stanford; Patrick A. Caton, an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy; and Christopher F. Edwards, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford.


Trivia Question of the Week

The average office worker uses how many sheets of copy paper per year?

a. 500
b. 5,000
c. 10,000
d. 100,000