EPA Extends SPCC Compliance Dates Again

January 19, 2009

EPA has extended the compliance dates for all facilities and is establishing new compliance dates for farms subject to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule as part of EPA’s multi-phased strategy to address concerns with the current regulation. Specifically, this amendment extends the dates by which the owner or operator of an SPCC-regulated facility must prepare or amend and implement its SPCC plan. This rule also establishes the dates by which the owner or operator of a farm must prepare or amend and implement its SPCC plan.

These amendments do not remove any regulatory requirement for owners or operators of facilities in operation before Aug. 16, 2002, to develop, implement, and maintain an SPCC plan in accordance with the regulations then in effect. These facilities must maintain their plans during the interim until the applicable date for revising and implementing their plans under the new amendments.

 The official rule will be effective on the date it is published in the Federal Register.


DOT Revises Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations

The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is revising the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to maintain alignment with international standards by incorporating a wide variety of amendments, including changes to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements. These revisions are necessary to harmonize the HMR with recent changes to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, the International Civil Aviation Organization's Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, Transport Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

These revisions also include amendments and clarifications addressing the safe transportation of batteries and battery-powered devices. Consistent with recent changes to the International Civil Aviation Organization's Technical Instructions, PHMSA is clarifying the prohibition against transporting electrical devices, including batteries and battery-powered devices that are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous amount of heat. PHMSA is also modifying and enhancing requirements for the packaging and handling of batteries and battery-powered devices, particularly in air commerce, to emphasize the safety precautions that are necessary to prevent incidents during transportation. PHMSA developed these revisions in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration to enhance the safe transportation of batteries and battery-powered devices.


EPA Office of Solid Waste Is Now the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery

Effective Jan. 18, 2009, the Office of Solid Waste (OSW) has reorganized and changed its name to the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR). The name change reflects the breadth of the responsibilities/authorities that Congress provided to EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the primary authorizing statute.

The ORCR has three divisions, which consolidate the operations of the six divisions under the old OSW structure. This reorganization will create a more efficient structure, consistent with current program priorities and resource levels, which will enable EPA to better serve the needs of the public and its key stakeholders over the next 5–10 years. EPA has increased focus on resource conservation and materials management; the emphasis on this important aspect of the RCRA program is expected to continue while maintaining a strong waste management regulatory and implementation program.

This reorganization also:

  • Consolidates the four major areas of the Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC) under one division
  • Combines data collection and data analysis activities, thus streamlining operations to better coordinate EPA’s efforts to analyze and present the benefits of its program
  • Consolidates waste-to-energy activities in one division and branch

The three divisions in the new organization are: Materials Recovery and Waste Management Division; Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division; and Program Implementation and Information Division.


Air Permit Policy Under the New Source Review Program Revised for Aggregating Facility Changes

NSR is a preconstruction permitting program to ensure air quality is maintained when factories, industrial boilers, and power plants are built or modified.

For the purpose of determining whether NSR applies, a facility should group together, or aggregate, emissions from multiple related changes into one single project, only if those activities are substantially related. In addition, the final rule specifies that:

  • For emissions to be aggregated, changes must have more in common than timing alone or just supporting the plant’s overall basic function
  • Plant modifications that are separated by three or more years will be presumed not to be substantially related

Debottlenecking is a concept used in EPA’s NSR program and refers to how emissions from units upstream and downstream from the unit(s) undergoing a physical or operational change are included in the calculation of an emissions increase for the project.

Flexible Air Permits Enable Increased Pollution Prevention and Economic Competitiveness

EPA’s assessment of flexible air permits demonstrated that they can enable significant environmental and economic benefits, while reducing administrative workload for permitting authorities and facilities.

 It affects both EPA’s operating permits and EPA’s New Source Review (NSR) programs. A facility with a flexible permit would explain its anticipated operational and construction changes for the duration of the permit term. The state, local, or tribal air quality permitting authority would include permit conditions to ensure the protection of public health and the environment for all of those changes. These flexible permits do not provide approval for changes not within the scope of conditions considered at the time of the permit application. Facilities must still meet their requirements under the Clean Air Act.

EPA Removes Propylene Carbonate and Dimethyl Carbonate From Regulation as VOCs

Extensive scientific reviews indicate these chemicals have little or no effect on forming smog or ground-level ozone. By excluding these chemicals from regulation as VOCs, states will be able to focus on controlling other emissions that more significantly contribute to ozone.

Areas with ozone air pollution levels that exceed national ambient air quality standards must develop state implementation plans that include strategies for reducing ground-level ozone. These plans may include VOC emission limits.

Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause serious respiratory illness including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. Ground-level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

EPA Video Shows Green Practices to Manage Stormwater Runoff

EPA and the U.S. Botanic Garden have produced an online video, “Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In,” that highlights green techniques such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels to help manage stormwater runoff.

The film showcases green techniques that are being used in urban areas to reduce the effects of stormwater runoff on the quality of downstream receiving waters. The goal is to mimic the natural way water moves through an area before development by using design techniques that infiltrate, evaporate, and reuse runoff close to its source.

The techniques are innovative stormwater management practices that manage urban stormwater runoff at its source and are effective at reducing the volume of stormwater runoff and capturing harmful pollutants. Using vegetated areas that capture runoff also improves air quality, mitigates the effects of urban heat islands, and reduces a community’s overall carbon footprint.

The video highlights green techniques on display in 2008 at the U.S. Botanic Garden’s “One Planet–Ours!” exhibit and at the U.S. EPA in Washington, D.C., including recently completed cisterns.

EPA Denies Two Petitions Seeking Changes to the New Source Review Program

On Jan. 15, 2009, EPA announced that it has denied a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club (SC) requesting reconsideration and a stay of certain parts of the May 16, 2008, final rule: Implementation of the New Source Review (NSR) Program for Particulate Matter Less Than 2.5 Micrometers (PM2.5). 

On Jan. 16, 2009, the EPA announced it has denied a petition by the State of New Jersey for reconsideration and a request for a stay of the Dec. 21, 2007, final rule entitled: “Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Nonattainment New Source Review: Reasonable Possibility in Recordkeeping.”

The “reasonable possibility” standard establishes for sources and reviewing authorities the criteria for determining when recordkeeping and reporting are required for a modification that does not trigger major NSR. The standard also specifies the recordkeeping and reporting requirements for these sources.

EPA Proposes Revisions to Air Quality Index for Particle Pollution

The proposal also would set a “significant harm” level, which states use in developing emergency episode plans. Fine particle pollution is also known as fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5.

Under the proposed changes, the AQI would reach “code orange”—unhealthy for sensitive groups—when particle pollution levels reach 35.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). The changes also would mean air quality reaches the “unhealthy” category at a lower particle pollution level.

These proposed changes likely would not have a noticeable impact on daily air quality forecasts. States have been voluntarily forecasting code orange when particle pollution reaches 35 ug/m3, the same level as the revised daily health standard. EPA revised this standard in September 2006.

The proposed rule also would set a significant harm level equal to an AQI value of 500. States use these levels in air quality emergency episode plans, which set procedures for delivering information to potentially affected citizens and for reducing emissions from sources in the area that are potentially contributing to harmful PM 2.5 levels. EPA is seeking comment on its proposal for setting the 500 AQI level.

The AQI is EPA’s color-coded tool for communicating air quality to the public. An AQI value of 50, for example, represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value of more than 300 represents hazardous air quality. AQI reporting is required in cities of 350,000 and larger; however, more than 300 cities voluntarily issue air quality forecasts as a public health service.

EPA will receive comments for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing on March 5, 2009, at the Intercontinental Dallas, 15201 Dallas Parkway, Addison, Texas.

In addition, EPA will host a blog to provide the public additional avenues for discussing this proposal. Comments to the blog will not be considered official comments for the record; however, the blog will provide readers with easy links for submitting official comments. The blog will open the week of March 2, 2009, the same week as the public hearing. EPA will notify the public about how to participate in the blog and how to be notified when the blog is open.

Notice of Availability of the Final White Paper on Integrated Modeling for Integrated Environmental Decision Making

EPA often relies on environmental models in pursuing its mission to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment. The EPA defines a model as a “simplification of reality that is constructed to gain insights into select attributes of a particular physical, biological, economic, or social system.” Traditionally, environmental modeling has focused on considering a single pollutant in a single environmental medium. This approach is no longer viewed as sufficient for effective environmental management decision support.

It is increasingly recognized that a holistic approach to modeling the environment and the mechanisms governing the fate and transport of pollutants through the different environmental media, as well as the multiple exposure pathways and the consequent responses of humans and ecosystems, is required to adequately assess and address environmental problems. Integrated modeling is important in helping EPA consider the environment as a “single, interrelated system.” Integrated modeling encompasses a broad range of approaches and configurations of models, data, and assessment methods to describe and analyze complex environmental problems, often in a multimedia and multidisciplinary manner.

This staff white paper recommends a commitment to a new direction in environmental modeling and decision-making, one that adopts a systems thinking approach. With this approach, EPA will be able to significantly improve its ability to conduct scientific analyses in support of integrated decision-making. The result will be implementing more efficient, effective, and equitable policies and programs to advance environmental protection as well as economic prosperity. This white paper:

  • Outlines the need for and value of integrated modeling for EPA science and decision-making
  • Analyzes the state of the art and practice of integrated modeling and includes examples of how this approach has been successfully applied and the lessons learned
  • Identifies the challenges to more fully implementing this approach in the future
  • Presents a plan to create an enabling environment to facilitate a concerted, systematic, and stable approach to the development and application of integrated modeling for integrated decision-making

EPA Releases Report on Sea Level Rise

The EPA, in collaboration with other agencies, has released a report that discusses the impacts of sea level rise on the coast, coastal communities, and the habitats and species that depend on them. 

Sea-level rise can affect coastal communities and habitats in a variety of different ways, including submerging low-lying lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, intensifying coastal flooding, and increasing the salinity of estuaries and freshwater aquifers. It is caused by a number of natural and human-induced factors and can vary by region. Some impacts of sea-level rise can already be observed along the U.S. coast.

The primary causes of global sea-level rise are the expansion of ocean water due to warming and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Locally, sea-level rise is also influenced by changes to the geology of coastal land, making coastal elevation mapping an important area of future study. The Mid-Atlantic region, the focus of this report, is one of the areas in the United States that will likely see the greatest impacts due to rising waters, coastal storms, and a high concentration of population along the coastline.

EPA led the development of the report with significant contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

CCSP was established in 2002 to provide the United States with science-based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems. The program is responsible for coordinating and integrating the research of 13 federal agencies on climate and global change.

EPA Region 2 Seeking Nominations for Environmental Quality Awards

Each year, EPA Region 2 recognizes and honors individuals and organizations who contributed significantly to improving the environment during the past year in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and tribal nations within the region’s jurisdiction. Winners are presented with a plaque and recognized by senior EPA officials during a ceremony coinciding with Earth Day celebrations.

The awards recognize achievement in six categories:

  • Individual Citizen
  • Nonprofit Organization, Environmental, or Community Group
  • Environmental Education
  • Business and Industry
  • Federal, State, Local, or Tribal Government or Agency
  • Press and Media

Nominations for the awards are solicited from both within and outside EPA and must be submitted by Feb. 23, 2009. Nominations should include a description of the individual or organization’s achievements and give reasons why they deserve special recognition. They can be mailed or e-mailed, but must be received by February 23 to be considered. Self-nominations are welcome.

Cleanup Work Set to Proceed at Industri-Plex Site in Massachusetts

A comprehensive settlement between the federal government, the Pharmacia Corporation, and Bayer CropScience Inc. was entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The settlement, contained in a Consent Decree, ensures that the second phase of cleanup actions at the Industri-Plex Superfund Site in Woburn, Mass., will proceed.

The estimated $25.7 million cleanup plan addresses soil, sediment, groundwater, and surface water contamination at the site, which is primarily contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, as well as ammonia, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene.

The settlement calls for the companies to pay EPA’s future oversight costs, as well as to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for past response costs plus interest. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the settling parties are required to implement the January 2006 “Record of Decision,” a comprehensive cleanup plan for the second phase at the site. The plan calls for the parties to address soil, sediment, groundwater, and surface water contamination at the site. EPA will work closely with the City of Woburn and the local community as this work progresses.

Work required under the settlement includes: dredging and off-site disposal of contaminated sediments; modifying an existing pond as a treatment and sediment-retention area; establishing land use restrictions where needed; constructing wetlands to compensate for wetlands impacted by the cleanup; and long-term monitoring of the groundwater, surface water, and sediments to ensure that cleanup measures continue to protect human health and the environment.

Chemical and glue operations occurred at the site for more than a century, from approximately 1853 to 1969. The Industri-Plex site was added to the national Superfund list in 1983 due to soil, sediment, and water contamination. The site contains four animal hide piles capped as part of an earlier cleanup action and includes portions of the Aberjona River and associated wetlands.

Pharmacia Corporation is a successor to the Monsanto Company, which manufactured chemicals at the site. Bayer CropScience Inc. is a successor to Stauffer Chemical Company, which manufactured glue products at the site. 

Cemex Will Reduce Emissions and Pay $2 Million in Fines for CAA Violations

In the largest settlement yet in the EPA’s ongoing cement kiln enforcement initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the EPA, has lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, resolving Clean Air Act (CAA) claims against CEMEX California Cement LLC with respect to the company’s Victorville, Calif., Portland cement plant.

The settlement will resolve claims asserted in a 2007 complaint that CEMEX released pollutants to the air, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, without required permits setting emission limits under the CAA. Under the terms of the settlement, CEMEX must meet new limits for these pollutants at the Victorville plant, one of the largest cement plants in the United States, including stringent new limits for nitrogen oxide that will reduce emissions by 1890 tons per year, a nearly 40% reduction. The cement manufacturer also must pay a $2 million civil penalty. EPA estimates that achieving and maintaining compliance with the new emission limits, depending on the control technology used, could cost CEMEX millions of dollars.

“This settlement will result in cleaner air for California,” said Deborah Jordan, director of EPA’s Air Division in the Pacific Southwest region. “This facility is the largest source of nitrogen oxide—an air pollutant that causes smog—in California, so the state-of-the-art air pollution controls that CEMEX is installing will have a significant impact on air quality.”

The settlement resolves EPA’s claims that on two separate occasions, in 1997 and 2000, CEMEX violated the CAA by undertaking major plant modifications resulting in significant increases in the Victorville plant’s capacity to pollute without first undergoing required regulatory review or obtaining required permits under the CAA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program and without installing state-of-the-art emission controls that would reduce contaminants such as nitrogen oxide.

“Today’s settlement shows the federal government’s continued commitment to enforcing the federal environmental laws and protecting the nation’s air quality,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nitrogen oxide is a harmful air pollutant that causes smog and leads to respiratory problems in children and the elderly. The Victorville area fails to meet federal air quality standards for both ozone and particulate matter.

Shell to Pay $1 Million Penalty and Enhance Pollution Controls for CWA Violations in Puerto Rico

Shell Chemical Yabucoa, Inc. of Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a $1,025,000 penalty and spend at least $273,800 enhancing its pollution controls and monitoring to remedy Clean Water Act (CWA) violations. The agreement, embodied in a proposed consent decree, was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in the Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico together with a complaint detailing Shell’s recent violations.

“This agreement marks a solution to a longstanding series of serious violations,” EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg said. “Not only is Shell paying for these violations with its checkbook, it is taking steps to avoid future problems.”

Shell’s facility, which the company purchased from Puerto Rico Sun Oil, LLC in 2001, has a permit from EPA to discharge treated stormwater, process wastewater, and sanitary wastewater under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The system is a requirement of the CWA, which regulates discharges into surface waters of the United States. The facility was not in compliance with its pollution discharge permit when Shell purchased it. EPA and Shell agreed on steps the company had to take to bring the facility into compliance after it was purchased.

Shell, however, failed to fulfill the agreement by discharging pollutants in excess of permit limits, discharging pollutants into Santiago Creek and the Caribbean Sea at unpermitted locations, failing to report certain discharge data, and lacking adequate operation and maintenance of a discharge pipe into the Caribbean Sea. Shell shut down petrochemical operations at the facility in July 2008 but continues to use its loading and unloading docks and tank farm.

Under the consent decree, Shell is required to take the following actions:

  • Pay a $1,025,000 penalty
  • Sample contaminated stormwater that is discharged into a flood control pond at the facility
  • Install and operate a new rain gauge, which will provide data to operate a water treatment unit during wet weather
  • Inspect a pipeline that had ruptured every six months to ensure no new ruptures have occurred
  • Develop a drainage map of the area around the facility
  • Implement best management practices for the facility’s stormwater collection systems
  • Amend the facility’s stormwater pollution prevention plan and submit the plan to EPA and the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board
  • Dredge a flood control pond to maximize its storage capacity
  • Conduct a hydrology study of the storm water collection systems and the flood control pond
  • Conduct an engineering study to bring the facility’s storm water discharges into compliance

Additionally, if Shell restarts petrochemical activities at the facility, they will be required to install a 1.34-million-gallon storage facility for contaminated stormwater.

TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling $725,255, Including $217,775 in Fines for Sunshine Food Mart

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has approved penalties totaling $725,255 against 69 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.

Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: 1 agricultural, 17 air quality, 1 dry cleaner, 2 industrial waste discharge, 1 licensed irrigator, 3 multi-media, 5 municipal solid waste, 5 municipal waste discharge, 14 petroleum storage tank, 5 public water system, 1 sludge, and 3 water quality. There were also three field citations. In addition, default orders were issued for the following categories: two dry cleaner, one multi-media, and four petroleum storage tank operations, two of which were default and shutdown orders.

Also, included in the total are penalties totaling $217,775 against Sunshine Food Mart in Kaufman County for numerous petroleum storage tank violations.

Three Sulfuric Acid Manufacturers Fined $700,000 Under CAA Settlement

EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have announced that three manufacturers of sulfuric acid have agreed to spend at least $12 million on air pollution controls that are expected to eliminate more than 3,000 tons of harmful emissions annually from six production plants in Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Chemtrade Logistics, Chemtrade Refinery Services, and Marsulex also will pay a civil penalty of $700,000 under the Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement.

“The companies are expected to reduce harmful air pollution by an estimated 3,000 tons per year, which is well over half of their annual emissions,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will improve air quality for millions of people.”

“This settlement is the product of our sustained effort to bring all sulfuric acid manufacturers into compliance with the Clean Air Act,” said Michael Guzman, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “We are pleased that the cooperative effort among us, our state counterparts, the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and the defendants resulted in this victory for the environment.”

Between January 2010 and January 2013, at its four production facilities in Beaumont, Texas; Shreveport, La.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Riverton, Wyo., Chemtrade will upgrade existing pollution control equipment called scrubbers to meet new, lower emission limits for sulfur dioxide. At its facility in Oregon, Ohio, Marsulex will improve chemical processing equipment, which will reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions by no later than July 2011. Finally, Marsulex will install a new scrubber at Chemtrade’s sulfuric acid plant in Cairo, Ohio, to meet lower sulfur dioxide limits by July 2011.

This settlement is the third nationwide compliance agreement in a CAA initiative under which DOJ and EPA expect to reach similar agreements with other sulfuric acid manufacturers. The first and second nationwide sulfuric acid compliance agreements were announced in 2007 with Rhodia Inc. and Dupont. As a result of the three settlements, this initiative has now secured pollution controls at 20 plants and is expected to eliminate a combined total of 35,000 tons of sulfur-dioxide emissions per year.

Chemtrade’s and Marsulex’s plants produce sulfuric acid by burning sulfur or used sulfuric acid, thereby creating sulfur dioxide, which poses a danger to children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung conditions. Sulfuric acid has many applications and is one of the top products of the chemical industry. Principal uses include ore processing, fertilizer manufacturing, oil refining, wastewater processing, and chemical synthesis.

The government’s complaint, filed with the consent decree, alleges that Chemtrade and Marsulex made modifications to their plants, which increased emissions of sulfur dioxide without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The CAA requires major sources of air pollution to obtain permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.

EPA is focusing on improving compliance among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing, glass manufacturing, and acid production industries.

The states of Louisiana, Ohio, and Oklahoma, and the Northern Arapaho Tribe, joined the federal government in the agreement. Of the total penalty, $460,000 will be paid to the federal government and $240,000 will be paid to the three states. 

EPA and OP-TECH Agree on Enhanced Environmental Testing for PCB Waste

A Syracuse, N.Y., company that specializes in environmental and industrial services recently entered into an agreement settling a complaint with the EPA for violations of the federal law that requires materials containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to be listed properly on manifests. As part of this settlement, OP-TECH Environmental Services, Inc., will engage in a $250,000 project to purchase and utilize specialized equipment to enhance its sampling for PCBs in loads of waste entering and leaving its Waverly, N.Y., facility. OP-TECH has paid a $12,200 penalty.

“For those that handle or dispose of waste that may potentially contain PCBs, our message is simple, get it tested first,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “OP-TECH has agreed to expand testing of its customer’s waste, which will protect the environment by avoiding the potential for improper handling and disposal of PCBs.”

EPA expects that the comprehensive testing that OP-TECH has agreed to undertake could serve as a model for other firms that transport or handle materials that potentially contain PCBs. Testing is designed to detect harmful chemical compounds that are sometimes listed improperly on manifests and not identified as PCBs. The company will use a sophisticated piece of equipment called a gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer detector to analyze all incoming shipments of waste for PCB content. This testing goes above and beyond anything required by federal law and will result in added protection to the environment. The sampling program, which will be provided at no cost to OP-TECH’s customers, will remain in operation for at least five years.

Cited under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA’s complaint against OP-TECH highlights the importance of understanding and following federal regulations regarding handling and disposal of toxic substances.

 PCBs were domestically manufactured and widely used from 1929 until their manufacture was banned in 1979, when Congress strictly limited the manufacture and use of this toxic substance.

EPA Reaches Agreement with Wolf Paving on Clean Air Violations

EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Wolf Paving Co. Inc., on alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at the company’s asphalt plant in Genesee, Wis. The agreement, which includes two environmental projects costing $96,900 and a $20,080 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that Wolf Paving failed to comply with particulate (i.e., smoke, ash, dust) emission limits from the plant from Oct. 13, 2004, to Sept. 8, 2005, in violation of federal performance standards for hot-mix asphalt facilities.

For its first environmental project, Wolf Paving will pave 6,185 square yards of the Genesee facility work area that was not previously paved with two inches of hot-mix asphalt binder and one inch of hot-mix asphalt surface mix to reduce dust emissions.

For its second environmental project, the company will buy a street sweeper to use on a regular basis for sweeping and collecting particulate material from the facility’s existing and new asphalt areas.

Pacific Northern Environmental Corp. Fined $94,000 for 2006 Diesel Fuel Spill in Oregon

In the Jan. 14, 2009, Federal Register , a Notice of Lodging of Consent Decree was filed against Pacific Northern Environmental Corp. (PNE) for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). In this action, the United States and the State of Oregon are seeking civil penalties for PNE’s violation of the CWA’s spill prohibition.

PNE owns and operates a heating oil business located in North Bend, Ore., as well as several gas stations in the area. On July 8, 2006, a tanker truck owned and operated by Dedicated carrying several hundred barrels of diesel fuel overturned near Scottsburg, Ore. Approximately 197 barrels of diesel fuel spilled. Diesel fuel that did not ignite in the ensuing fire migrated to the Umpqua River. PNE’s discharge to the Umpqua River violated the CWA and Oregon law.

Under the consent decree, PNE will pay the United States and the State of Oregon civil penalties of $74,272 and $20,000, respectively. Additionally, PNE agrees to perform a supplemental environmental project (SEP), which will cost no less than $47,640.

DOJ will receive comments relating to the consent decree for a period of 30 days from the date of its publication.

Minnesota Beef Processor Fined $40,000 for Unauthorized Discharges and Other Violations

A beef processing company in Buffalo Lake will pay a $40,000 civil penalty for alleged violations of wastewater, permitting, and other hazardous waste rules. In an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), North Star Beef, Minnesota Beef, and William Gilger will pay the civil penalty and complete work to correct the violations.

The beef-processing operation generates wastewater and industrial by-products including manure and contaminated wash water. MPCA inspections in March documented unauthorized discharges, mismanagement of land application, and recordkeeping violations. Inspectors observed the mishandling of waste resulting in an unapproved discharge of blood, water, and manure into a road ditch. They also noted land application of waste within setbacks from waters and improper handing of old batteries and used oil.

The agreement requires the company to submit plans to prevent unpermitted discharges, establish a sampling and compliance plan, and design and implement an environmental management system.

A stipulation agreement is one of the tools the MPCA uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

BATG Environmental Fined $20,000 for Violations Related to Massachusetts Landfill Closure Project

BATG Environmental, Inc., has agreed to resolve violations of the Wetlands Protection Act that occurred during closure activities being conducted at the Town of Charlton’s municipal landfills located in Massachusetts. As part of the agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), BATG will pay a $20,000 penalty.

During an inspection, MassDEP officials observed that construction from landfill-capping activities had resulted in erosion and deposition of sediment into wetland resource areas due to the inadequate installation and maintenance of erosion control measures. The lack of effective erosion controls resulted in violations of the wetland regulations, the Surface Water Quality standards, and the order of conditions issued by the Charlton Conservation Commission.

“Landfill closure projects need serious planning and the implementation of erosion controls, especially when these construction sites have steep slopes and are located near wetland resource areas,” said Martin Suuberg, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “MassDEP expects that this action, in concert with other closure activities, will result in a properly closed and maintained landfill in 2009.”

An order was initially issued to the company, requiring that it take action to stabilize all exposed soils with erosion controls and hire a wetlands specialist to develop a plan for the restoration of the impacted wetland areas. Reinspection of the sites indicated that the controls required by the order were not adequately implemented to control erosion and sedimentation at the sites.

After further negotiation, BATG agreed to a MassDEP order establishing an approved schedule for the implementation of a Sediment and Erosion Control Plan to prevent further discharges, and implementation of a Wetlands Restoration Plan. All restoration work must be conducted by a wetlands specialist, completed by May 30, 2009, and verified by a MassDEP inspection.

Wisconsin Waste-to-Energy Facility Fined $17,500 for Failing to Comply with Mercury Emission Limit

EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with a Waste-to-Energy Facility located in Barron County, Wis., for alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations. The agreement, which includes a $17,500 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that the Barron County facility failed to comply with the mercury emission limit specified in its state operating permit and federal requirements for small municipal waste combustors.

Exposure to mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys. Adults exposed to metallic mercury vapor may develop tremors, memory loss, and kidney disease.

Jason R. Good Quarry in Washington Fined $13,000 for Water Quality Violations

The Jason R. Good Quarry has been fined $13,000 for water quality violations stemming from the failure to stabilize an on-site landslide that dumped muddy water into local creeks important for salmon and steelhead. The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued the penalty.

The penalty is based on muddy discharges that have gone to local creeks, inaccurate discharge monitoring reports, and failure to follow required plans and best management practices to protect water quality. The quarry is under orders to come into full compliance with the sand and gravel permit.

“Ecology found several critical problems in the way the Jason R. Good Quarry approaches its stormwater management responsibilities,” said Garin Schrieve, Ecology’s regional water-quality manager. “The quarry has been slow to respond or make improvements, leaving the potential for more water quality problems in the wettest time of the year. Unfortunately, a penalty seems to be the only option we have to spark the needed corrections.”

Ecology inspected the site in March 2008 in response to reports of muddy water entering Leckler Creek from the quarry. The inspector discovered a small landslide from the edge of the quarry’s slope stabilization terraces. This sent muddy discharges into the North Fork McCorkle and Leckler creeks. The quarry was aware of the situation but hadn’t taken any steps to control the discharges from the property, as required by the sand and gravel permit. Leckler Creek is designated as critical habitat for West coast salmon and steelhead, and it has been the site of several habitat restoration projects.

The permit also requires the quarry to collect water samples in areas that would provide an accurate representation of discharges from the quarry to the creek. The quarry’s results were inconsistent with Ecology’s own sampling taken during the inspection.

Afterwards, Ecology sent an inspection report and requested the quarry provide specific details for addressing the problems within 15 days. The quarry didn’t respond.

A follow-up inspection in August revealed little had been done to stabilize the landslide area. It also identified gaps between the company’s actions and requirements of its stormwater management and erosion and sediment control plans. Another inspection report outlining problems and noncompliance was sent to the quarry. Ecology received a response in mid-November with evidence of some actions taken to stabilize the unstable slope.

Massachusetts Property Owners Fined $4,000 for Wetlands Protection Act Violations

MassDEP has assessed a $4,000 penalty to Stephanie G. Finn and Michael Brumber, both of Holliston, Mass., following violations of the Wetlands Protection Act that occurred at their property. MassDEP representatives inspected the property at the request of the Holliston Conservation Commission and observed that alterations to a Bordering Vegetative Wetland and adjacent Buffer Zone had occurred. No wetlands permit had been issued for these activities.

A consent order negotiated with MassDEP requires Finn and Brumber to submit a plan of action to restore portions of the wetland altered by the placement of wood waste and stones. The plan will require approval from MassDEP, and the work will be supervised by a wetlands specialist and must be completed by June 2009.

“Owners of properties adjacent to wetlands do well to create barriers between their operation and protected wetlands to avoid encroachment violations like the one resolved by this order,” said Paul Anderson, deputy director for MassDEP’s Central Regional Office. “Taking precautions to prevent damage to wetland resource areas will save both time and money.”

Notices Issued to ExxonMobil Corporation, Honeywell Corporation, and PVS Chemicals Pertaining to Natural Resource Damages to the Buffalo River

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), together as trustees of the natural resources of the Buffalo River, have issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to pursue a claim for damages caused by a history of contamination from companies located along the waterway.

The NOI was issued to ExxonMobil Corporation, Honeywell Corporation, and PVS Chemicals, companies that owned and operated industrial facilities along the Buffalo River. Each is alleged to have discharged toxic chemicals or oil into the waterway, harming fish, wildlife, biota, water quality, sediments, and cultural resources. The notice informs the parties that the trustees studied the Buffalo River’s resources, concluded that significant harm has occurred, and determined that further assessment is needed to decide what restoration is necessary.

“Today’s action is an important step in holding polluters accountable for the damage to the Buffalo River’s ecosystem,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “With this action, we are serving notice that the public is due compensation for the losses resulting from the historical contamination of this river. Too often in the past, urban waterways were used for the dumping of toxic chemicals. It is now time to reclaim these natural resources so they can serve the interests of their surrounding communities.”

“Common terns, belted kingfishers, shorebirds, herons, rails, and other marsh birds living along the river in wetlands and mudflats will benefit from restoration of the Buffalo River,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Regional Director Marvin E. Moriarty. “We want to work cooperatively to develop a restoration plan and to put that plan into action.”

Natural resource damages (NRD) claims seek to hold parties responsible for the injuries to the state’s natural resources, measured by the value of projects needed to restore the resources to their condition before the injury occurred. NRD claims are different from actions to recover costs of cleaning up contaminated sites, which are limited to the investigation, removal, or treatment of the contaminants.

“2009 marks Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s 20th year of working to clean up industrial contamination and restore the Buffalo River,” Riverkeeper Executive Director Julie Barrett O’Neill said. “Riverkeeper hopes that the prosecution of this Natural Resources Damages claim helps to both expedite the current remediation efforts and to encourage all of the companies to participate in the river’s restoration.”

The action to address damages to the natural resources is just one of DEC’s initiatives to help restore the Buffalo River ecosystem. These efforts include:

  • Addressing the 44 known hazardous waste sites identified within the Buffalo River watershed by completing cleanups at 40 sites and pursuing remediation at the remaining four, where activities are nearing completion
  • Funding and conducting a large-scale sampling effort of the river sediments at a cost of more than $750,000 and participating with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office, and others, to undertake a remediation feasibility study scheduled to be completed in 2009
  • Providing $1 million to fund two Brownfield Opportunity Area planning grants along the river that address environmental, ecological, economical, and environmental justice issues through the creation of a strategic plan for land use and redevelopment

Ohio EPA Establishes Air Emissions Banking Website for Business and Industry

Ohio EPA introduced a new online voluntary emissions credit banking system to make it easier for companies to build or expand in Ohio counties that don’t meet federal air quality standards. 

“The emissions bank can help buyers and sellers of emission credits connect quickly and easily, which is a big plus in today’s fast-paced business environment,” Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski said. “We hope this will help foster economic activity in nonattainment areas, while still allowing us to improve air quality in these same areas.”

Under the Clean Air Act, a major emissions source cannot construct in a nonattainment area unless it obtains emission reduction credits, also known as emission offsets. For example, if a new facility wanted to locate in a nonattainment area and planned to emit 100 tons of carbon monoxide per year, it would need to obtain that amount of reductions (or credits) from another source. It can be time consuming and difficult for companies to find and verify available emission offsets. As a result, they often exclude nonattainment areas when considering where to locate a new facility.

Ohio must meet federal air quality standards for nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, fine particulates, carbon monoxide, and lead. Currently, 32 counties in Ohio do not meet federal standards for particulate matter and ozone. Ohio has submitted plans to U.S. EPA to lower pollution levels in nonattainment areas. Ohio EPA’s goal is to bring these areas back into attainment, improving the areas’ quality of life and the local economy.

New Southern California Website Gives Public Access to Air and Water Quality, Waste Recycling, and Local Site Cleanup Data

EPA has launched a new website that will provide up-to-date environmental information to residents of southern California. The site features EPA’s work on port diesel emissions, area water quality, local site cleanups, waste recycling, border activities, and tribal projects in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Barbara counties.

The new site uses interactive maps of southern California to provide local residents with critical environmental information about their own communities and neighborhoods, including current air pollution levels, beach conditions, and sun exposure risks. The site will be useful to teachers and students as an educational tool for researching environmental issues in their communities. It also provides resources for organizations and businesses on how to “green” their operations or join one of EPA’s voluntary partnership programs.

E-Cycle Washington Makes Recycling of TVs, Monitors, and Computers Free

If you’re wondering what to do with those unwanted TVs, computers, and monitors stored in a garage or back room in Washington, the state has an answer for you. It allows free and convenient recycling of these electronic products.

The makers of these products are providing about 200 collection sites around the state. Residents, small businesses, school districts, small government agencies, and charities can bring television sets, computers (both desktop and laptop), and monitors to these sites to be recycled. They will pay no fee for this service.

There is no need to rush out this weekend—or even this month. E-Cycle Washington is a permanent and ongoing addition to current recycling opportunities available to Washington residents. Many collection sites will be open several days a week, and some will be open every day. And the collection network will be continuously improved to meet the needs of the public.

Manufacturers, collectors, recyclers, retailers, local and state government, and nonprofit groups are working together to make E-Cycle Washington a success. Washington was one of the first states in the nation to pass a law  in 2006 requiring electronics manufacturers to set up a free recycling program for their products. Product-makers have collaborated to finance and develop a plan for the program, including collection, transportation, and recycling. The organization operating the program is the Washington Materials Management and Financing Authority (WMMFA).

The law makes manufacturers responsible for taking back the products they produce that contain toxic material. It also gives consumers the responsibility for bringing in these products for safe and responsible recycling, rather than throwing them away. This concept is called product stewardship.

Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) sets standards for the program and oversees regulation.

“Washington can be proud of this program that helps us take responsibility for the products we make, buy, and use,” Ecology Director Jay Manning said. “We in the Pacific Northwest have a strong recycling culture, but old electronics have posed real challenges. This program retains our leadership in recycling, while at the same time maintaining our position at the cutting edge of technology. E-Cycle Washington takes us in exactly the right direction.”

Due to the larger size of some televisions, not all e-cycling sites are able to accept televisions. Additionally, keyboards, mice, printers, VCR/DVD players, other peripherals, cell phones, and other electronic or electrical products will not be accepted free for recycling at this time. To find out where to take other items for recycling, check out 1-800-RECYCLE, through Ecology. 

Glacier and Ice-Sheet Melting, Sea-Ice Retreat, Coastal Erosion, and Sea Level Rise Are Expected to Continue

A new comprehensive scientific synthesis of past Arctic climates demonstrates for the first time the pervasive nature of Arctic climate amplification. Temperature change in the Arctic is happening at a greater rate than other places in the Northern Hemisphere, and this is expected to continue in the future. As a result, glacier and ice-sheet melting, sea-ice retreat, coastal erosion, and sea level rise can be expected to continue.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) led this new assessment, which is a synthesis of published science literature and authored by a team of climate scientists from academia and government. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program commissioned the report, which has contributions from 37 scientists from the United States, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.

The new report also makes several conclusions about the Arctic:

  • Taken together, the size and speed of the summer sea-ice loss over the last few decades is highly unusual compared to events from previous thousands of years, especially considering that changes in Earth’s orbit over this time have made sea-ice melting less, not more, likely.
  • Sustained warming of at least a few degrees (more than approximately 4?F to 13?F above average 20th century values) is likely to be sufficient to cause the nearly complete, eventual disappearance of the Greenland ice sheet, which would raise the sea level by several meters.
  • The current rate of human-influenced Arctic warming is comparable to peak natural rates documented by reconstructions of past climates. However, some projections of future human-induced change exceed documented natural variability.
  • The past tells us that when thresholds in the climate system are crossed, climate change can be very large and very fast. We cannot rule out that human-induced climate change will trigger such events in the future.

“By integrating research on the past 65 million years of climate change in the entire circum-Arctic, we have a better understanding on how climate change affects the Arctic and how those effects may impact the whole globe,” USGS Director Mark Myers said. “This report provides the first comprehensive analysis of the real data we have on past climate conditions in the Arctic, with measurements from ice cores, sediments, and other Earth materials that record temperature and other conditions.”

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