EPA Launches Web Tools to Improve Environmental Performance at Education Facilities

July 25, 2003

EPA's New England Office has announced the availability of two on-line tools to help colleges and universities across the country come into compliance with environmental laws and further improve their environmental performance.

The web sites – a ‘virtual' environmental campus and a collection of successful case studies – provide practical information on environmental requirements, specific steps for achieving compliance, improving environmental performance and the potential resulting savings for colleges, universities, high schools and other educational institutions working with hazardous chemicals in their various departments.

"College campuses can have a big effect on the environment, from maintenance departments to art and lab supplies," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, which spearheaded the effort to develop the two sites. "These two sites are a great tool for anyone who wants to see their campus a little greener, a little cleaner, and in many cases a little cheaper."

This announcement comes amidst an increased EPA emphasis on environmental performance at colleges and universities in New England and across the country. Since 1992, EPA has inspected more than 60 campuses nationwide resulting in over $6 million in penalties and projects beyond those required to come into compliance, with several cases still under negotiation. At the same time EPA has increased assistance and outreach to the sector.

The first website – at http://www.c2e2.org/evc – is a Virtual Environmental Campus developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The web site uses an engaging, intuitive format to highlight potential environmental issues at nine campus areas, and provides compliance information and good management practices on numerous issues. Areas covered include arts/theater areas, cafeterias, dormitories, drains/sewers, grounds/vehicles, labs, medical area, power plant and waste storage.

MIT agreed to develop the web site as part of a settlement of an enforcement case with EPA concluded in 2001. The site is hosted by the Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence (C2E2), a consortium of colleges and universities dedicated to improving their campuses' environmental performance in higher education through environmental professional networking, information exchange, the development of professional resources and tools, and the advancement of innovative regulatory models.

The second web tool is a catalog of best management practice case studies included as part of EPA New England's college and university assistance web site. The catalog was designed to enhance EPA's existing guide for implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) in a university setting. The case studies highlight successful strategies colleges and universities have used to make environmental improvements and may be a useful tool for those who may need practical information to convince administration, faculty or staff to move a project forward. The catalog also answers such basic questions as "How do I get started?" and "What are the potential cost savings?"

Colleges and universities contributing to the BMP Catalog include: Bates College, Boston University, The Catholic University of America, Colby College, Cornell University, Harvard University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Medical University of South Carolina, Middlebury College, The Ohio University, Rhode Island School of Design, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Maine Farmington, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of North Carolina, University of Vermont, and Yale University.

The catalog is designed to expand as more schools share their experiences on best management practices. EPA and C2E2, which helped collect the original studies, encourage schools to submit their case studies for the catalog. For further information or to submit your example for possible inclusion in the BMP Catalog, please contact Peggy Bagnoli at EPA New England at 617.918.1828 or at bagnoli.peggy@epa.gov.

The catalog (along with the EMS guide and other information for colleges and universities) is available at http://www.epa.gov/ne/assistance/univ.

DOT Withdraws Unnecessary Rulemakings

The U.S. Department of Transportation, as part of its effort to overhaul and expedite its rulemaking process, has announced the withdrawal or termination of 53 rulemaking actions for which no further regulatory action is planned.

"Rulemaking is one of DOT's most important activities, and I have worked to ensure that the department's rules - and the process to develop them - are driven by the results we are trying to achieve," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said. "The actions we are taking today build on our ongoing effort to complete all rulemakings in a timely manner."

At the direction of Secretary Mineta, the department reviewed the status of all DOT rulemakings. The review identified numerous proceedings listed in DOT's Regulatory Agenda for which it was clear no further action was intended. Many of these proceedings had been pending for years without action. The withdrawn or terminated rulemakings include notices of proposed rulemaking, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and one interim final rule, and involve proceedings within most of DOT's operating administrations as well as the Office of the Secretary.

This review is part of Secretary Mineta's larger effort to improve DOT's rulemaking management. He required DOT's senior leadership to take a course on the rulemaking process to ensure that they fully understood the legal requirements, time constraints and need for well-reasoned analysis. He also emphasized the need for an effective tracking system for DOT's significant rulemakings to ensure that rules are completed in a timely manner or that problems are identified and fixed. As part of this effort, he established a monthly, internet-accessible report for the public providing the current status of these significant rulemakings, which may be obtained at http://regs.dot.gov.

The department's notice may be obtained in the July 24, 2003 Federal Register as well as through DOT's Docket Management System at http://dms.dot.gov, docket OST-2003-15243.

Coordinated Approach Stressed in Revised Small Business Strategy

In recognition of the increasingly important role small business plays in the United States economy, EPA announced its revised Small Business Strategy on June 27. The revised strategy integrates a small business focus in all EPA's core functions and highlights policies and approaches that advance public health and environmental protection in ways that are relevant to small businesses.

The revised Small Business Strategy was developed after a series of interviews with interested state representatives, stakeholders, industry and focus groups. It intends to unify EPA's diverse programs in a coordinated approach so small businesses better understand and meet environmental responsibilities to reach five key goals: to build better understanding within EPA of the diversity, needs, and most effective ways to work with small businesses; emphasize partnership and stakeholder involvement; strengthen the environmental performance of small businesses; and instill the concept of environmental stewardship in small businesses.

The revised Small Business Strategy is available at http://www.smallbiz-enviroweb.org/html/pdf/Strategy_Final_062303.pdf . More information is available at http://www.smallbiz-enviroweb.org and http://www.epa.gov/smallbusiness .

Climate Change Strategic Plan Issued by Federal Science Panel

A multi-agency Federal panel has issued its strategic plan to answer some of the most complex questions around the climate variability and change issues. The document describes a strategy for developing knowledge of variability and change in climate and related environmental and human systems, and for encouraging the application of this knowledge. The plan is the result of months of intensive effort by federal experts, independent scientists, non-governmental organizations, members of the general public and interested international specialists who make up the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), a joint federal program of President Bush's Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration.

The strategic plan builds on the expertise of 13 federal departments and agencies, including EPA. The plan will advance the state of knowledge of climate variability and potential responses of the climate system to human-induced changes in the atmosphere and land surface, and the implications of these potential changes and management options for natural environments.

EPA's effort is being spearheaded by Dr. Paul Gilman, who serves in the dual roles of EPA Science Advisor and Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development. "This plan will support scientific discovery and excellence. The partnerships will produce high-quality, science-based knowledge that we will use as the platform for policies that protect the Earth's environment. Through this work, we will ensure a safer, healthier planet for future generations," Gilman commented.

The plan outlines five scientific goals aimed at addressing key questions and uncertainties:

  1. Extend knowledge of the Earth's past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed changes.
  2. Improve understanding of the forces bringing about changes in the Earth's climate and related systems.
  3. Reduce uncertainty in projections of how the Earth's climate and environmental systems may change in the future.
  4. Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed systems to climate and associated global changes.
  5. Explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunities related to climate variability and change.

For more information on the CCSP and the new strategic plan, see http://www.climatescience.gov

Plating Company Owner Sentenced to Prison for RCRA Violation

On July 15 in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Robert T. Findley, Sr., owner of RTF Industries Inc., located near Marshall, Texas, was sentenced to spend a year and a day in prison for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The defendant operated an electroplating facility and illegally dumped hazardous wastes including spent cyanide plating bath solutions and wastewater treatment sludges under a trailer located at a pyrotechnic facility which RTF Industries owned and operated next door to its plating facility. Cyanide wastes are highly toxic and can cause serious neurological injury and even death to individuals who come into contact with them.

The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tyler.

EPA, DOJ Issue Interim CERCLA "Windfall Lien" Policy

On July 16, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice issued an enforcement discretion policy explaining when EPA would, and would not, seek compensation for increasing a property's market value through a Superfund response action.

Under new Section 107(r) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or "Superfund"), added by the recent Brownfields Amendments, bona fide prospective purchasers are not liable as owner/operators for CERCLA response costs, but the property they acquire may be subject to a windfall lien if an EPA response action has increased the fair market value of the property. The interim policy first explains that, absent Superfund response action at a site, the United States has no windfall lien on that property. For properties that have been the subject of an EPA response action, the policy: sets forth factors that may lead EPA and DOJ to assert a windfall lien and provides examples of a number of situations where EPA will generally not pursue a windfall lien; describes EPA's and DOJ's approach to settling windfall liens; and discusses letters and agreements that EPA may provide to prospective purchasers to address any windfall lien concerns.

Samples of these documents are provided as attachments to the policy at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/cleanup/superfund/interim-windfall-lien.pdf . A frequently asked questions document is available at http://www.epa.gov/Compliance/resources/policies/cleanup/superfund/interim-windfall-lien-faq.pdf.