December 12, 2022
The EPA recently proposed a rule
that would improve reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) by, among other proposed changes, eliminating an exemption that allows facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals are used in small, or de minimis
, concentrations. Because PFAS are used at low concentrations in many products, this rule would ensure that covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis
exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.
“PFAS continue to pose an urgent threat to our country and communities deserve to know if they may be exposed because of the way these chemicals are being managed, recycled, or released,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By removing this reporting loophole, we’re advancing the work set out in the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap and ensuring that companies report information for even small concentrations of PFAS. We’ll make this information available to the public so EPA and other federal, state and local agencies can use it to help best protect health and the environment.”
This proposal reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the impacts of these forever chemicals, and advances EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap
to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS.
TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors and federal facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. Information collected through TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also help support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public.
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) immediately added certain PFAS to the list of chemicals covered by TRI for the 2021 reporting year and provided a framework to automatically add other PFAS in future years. The NDAA established TRI manufacturing, processing, and otherwise use reporting thresholds of 100 pounds for each of these listed PFAS. However, the previous Administration codified the NDAA provisions in a manner that allows facilities that report to TRI to disregard certain minimal or de minimis concentrations of chemicals in mixtures or trade name products (below 1% concentration for each of the TRI-listed PFAS, except for PFOA for which the concentration is set at 0.1%).
The proposed rule would eliminate the availability of that exemption and require facilities to report on PFAS regardless of their concentration in products.
Currently, facilities are required to report to TRI on 180 PFAS per the requirements of the NDAA. However, in data submitted to EPA in 2021
, fewer facilities reported PFAS to TRI than expected. In response, EPA conducted outreach, and many facilities contacted claimed the de minimis
exemption as a reason for not reporting. The rule proposed recently would list PFAS as “chemicals of special concern,” which would make them ineligible for the de minimis
If finalized, this proposal would also make the de minimis exemption unavailable for purposes of supplier notification requirements to downstream facilities for all chemicals on the list of chemicals of special concern, which also includes certain persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, and dioxins. This change will help ensure that purchasers of mixtures and trade name products containing these chemicals are informed of their presence in mixtures and products they purchase.
EPA Issues Guidance to States to Reduce Harmful PFAS Pollution
The EPA recently released a memorandum to states that provides direction on how to use the nation’s bedrock clean water permitting program to protect against per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The guidance released recently, which outlines how states can monitor for PFAS discharges and take steps to reduce them where they are detected, is part of the Agency’s holistic approach to addressing these harmful forever chemicals under EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap
This action is a critical step in EPA’s efforts to restrict PFAS at their source, which will reduce the levels of PFAS entering wastewater and stormwater systems and ultimately lower people’s exposure to PFAS through swimming, fishing, drinking and other pathways.
“EPA is following through on its commitment to empower states and communities across the nation to address known or suspected discharges of PFAS,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Today’s action builds upon successful and innovative efforts already used by several states to safeguard communities by using our Clean Water Act permitting program to identify and reduce sources of PFAS pollution before they enter our waters.”
Several states have already demonstrated the benefits of leveraging their state administered NPDES permit programs to identify and reduce sources of PFAS before these forever chemicals enter treatment facilities and surface waters. Michigan, for example, is partnering with municipal wastewater treatment facilities to develop monitoring approaches to help identify upstream sources of PFAS. The state has been able to leverage that monitoring information to work with industries, such as electroplating companies, to substantially reduce PFAS discharges. North Carolina has also successfully leveraged its NPDES program to develop facility-specific, technology-based effluent limits for known industrial dischargers of PFAS. This memo urges states to replicate these approaches and use others noted in the memo to identify and reduce PFAS discharges.
This memo builds upon the agency’s April 2022 memo
to EPA Regions by expanding the audience to states and including new recommendations related to biosolids, permit limits, and coordination across relevant state agencies. The memo provides recommendations to NPDES permit writers and pretreatment coordinators, rooted in the successful use of these tools in several states, on monitoring provisions and analytical methods and the use of pollution prevention and best management practices. These provisions will help reduce PFAS pollution in surface waters as the Agency also works to promulgate effluent guidelines, finalize multi-laboratory validated analytical methods and publish water quality criteria that address PFAS compounds.
Washington Issued 3rd Quarter Environmental Penalties
The Washington Department of Ecology issued $36,400 in penalties of $1,000 or more from July through September 2022.
Ecology works with thousands of businesses and individuals to help them comply with state laws. Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.
The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.
Ecology strives to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s environment and promote wise management for current and future generations. When someone pollutes Washington’s land, air or waters, Ecology enforces state and federal regulations in hopes of changing behavior and deterring future violations.
for a list of violations.
Failure to Test Oxygen Level in Confined Space Led to Multiple Fatalities
Federal workplace safety investigators have determined that an Arkansas construction contractor failed to test oxygen levels in the confined space before two workers entered a sewer 20 feet below ground at an Edmund work site and died because of a lack of oxygen.
An investigation OSHA into the June 14, 2022, incident found that an employee of Belt Construction, Inc. climbed into a newly installed sewer manhole to conduct testing when they lost consciousness. Trying to rescue the worker, a second employee followed into the manhole and lost consciousness. Both workers later succumbed to their injuries.
OSHA investigators determined the Texarkana, Arkansas, company did not complete required planning before allowing workers to enter the space. In pre-entry planning, a confined space
must be tested for safety, including finding out if ventilation is needed. Belt Construction also failed to provide rescue equipment and did not train workers on confined space entry procedures or obtain permits required by federal law.
OSHA cited the company for six serious and two willful violations and proposed $287,150 in penalties.
"Two lives were lost – and family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve – because Belt Construction Inc. failed to follow legally required steps designed to prevent a needless incident like this from happening," said OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby in Oklahoma City. "Employers assigning people to work inside a confined space must comply with safety standards, including providing and ensuring the use of required safety equipment, and obtain all necessary permits before the job starts to avoid tragedy."
Refinery Owners Ordered to Remove Dangerous Chemicals
The EPA is requiring Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP (PHRT) to hire experts to safely remove chemicals that are not being properly managed at the facility in equipment that EPA had identified as being of concern after an EPA inspection. The Order on Consent requires full access for EPA to be on-site to oversee the work and safety measures in the short term until the chemicals are removed or secured.
“Ensuring the communities near this refinery are protected is front and center in all our work. This consent order will ensure the removal of the ammonia, liquified petroleum gas and other chemicals,” said Lisa F. Garcia, EPA Regional Administrator. “We are holding this facility to the same standards that we hold any refinery or industrial facility – meaning they must not pose a serious risk to workers or community members, and they must follow our environmental laws. EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, and our commitment to advance Environmental Justice in this community is unwavering.”
Under a consent order using Clean Air Act authorities, PHRT will remove all ammonia, liquified petroleum gas (or LPG), amines and hydrogen sulfide from the equipment at the facility. These chemicals have been used for refinery processes.
In addition, the agreement requires PHRT to take certain interim measures, beginning immediately, during the period before the materials are addressed, including increased monitoring and inspections of the systems containing the amine, ammonia and LPG, and actions to improve emergency preparedness. Over 40,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are reported to be at the refinery. Piping and many valves on the liquified petroleum gas (LPG) unit are in an advanced state of corrosion and disrepair. The equipment contains over 37,000 pounds of LPG.
The Order on Consent requires the work to be performed by a qualified contractor to assess the systems containing anhydrous ammonia, LPG, amine, and hydrogen sulfide and determine how to safely remove those chemicals. Once a contractor is approved by EPA, that contractor has thirty days to perform an assessment of the three systems and propose options for the safe removal of the chemicals. The contractors will provide its options report to EPA within seven days of completing these actions. EPA will review the report and provide any comments. Work on the removal must start within five days of EPA’s approval. The order also requires reports to be submitted to EPA during and upon the completion of work. The order provides for EPA’s oversight of all work and contains enforcement provisions.
In September, EPA inspected the refinery to determine the general state of chemical safety at the facility. During the inspection, EPA inspectors identified safety concerns, including corrosion of piping and valves, that could result in a chemical release or fire, particularly in areas where large quantities of ammonia, LPG, and amine and hydrogen sulfide are located.
EPA alerted the company to the deficiencies and issued a detailed inspection report
, which was also shared with the public. The recent action addresses the most serious of those issues first and EPA will continue its work to address other environmental issues at the refinery going forward.
EPA also set up a toll-free community hotline (866) 462-4789, developed a dedicated website
, and is engaging regularly with the community.
Massachusetts Announces 16th Annual Leading by Example Award Winners
The Baker-Polito Administration recently recognized seven Massachusetts state entities, municipalities, and public sector individuals for their leadership in promoting initiatives that decarbonize operations and reduce environmental impacts, and associated energy costs of operations at the 16th
annual Leading by Example
Awards Ceremony. Awardees were honored for policies and programs that advanced significant energy and emissions reductions, renewable energy installations, energy efficiency, waste minimization, fleet electrification, electric vehicle infrastructure, and a host of initiatives that reduce environmental impacts and costs for state and municipal operations.
“I am proud of the significant contributions public sector leaders at the state and local level have made to Massachusetts’ ambitious climate and clean energy goals,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Today, we celebrated the achievements of these individuals and municipal and state entities who are on the ground doing hard work to combat climate change, lower energy use and costs and attain a clean energy future.”
The Leading by Example Program is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and works collaboratively with state agencies and public colleges and universities to advance clean energy and sustainable practices that reduce the environmental impacts of state government operations. Cities and towns across the Commonwealth receive similar support and grant funding through DOER’s Green Communities
Division. The awards were presented at the Massachusetts State House by Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Beth Card, DOER Commissioner Patrick Woodcock, and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) Commissioner Carol Gladstone.
On April 22, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration signed
Executive Order No. 594, Leading by Example: Decarbonizing and Minimizing Environmental Impacts of State Government, which set goals and requirements that will accelerate the decarbonization of fuels used to heat and cool state facilities, help to demonstrate new technologies and strategies necessary to meet the Commonwealth’s energy goals, and quicken the shift to electric heating and vehicles. By leading by example in these and other areas, state government can help guide the Commonwealth toward a cleaner future.
Through the Leading by Example Program, state government has collectively reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent from a 2004 baseline, installed more than 35 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) on state lands, reduced fuel oil use by more than 89 percent - eliminating more than 22.9 million gallons of fuel use annually, installed more than 300 electric vehicle charging stations, and created and maintained more than 280 acres of pollinator-friendly habitats on state properties. Since the Baker-Polito Administration took office in 2015, 49 solar projects totaling 26.3 MW of capacity have been installed at state facilities. These installations generate more than 30 million kilowatt-hours annually, enough to power approximately 4,000 homes, and provide GHG reductions equivalent to taking 2,100 cars off the road.
Additionally, there are now 286 communities from the Berkshires to Cape Cod that are designated as Green Communities. These communities, which are home to 87.2 percent of Massachusetts’ population, have each committed to reducing municipal energy consumption by 20 percent over five years. These commitments amount to a collective savings of over 2.6 million MMBtus, energy use equivalent to heating and powering nearly 20,000 homes, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 230,000 tons, equivalent to taking more than 45,000 cars off the road. More than $160 million in Designation Grants and Competitive Grants have been awarded to Green Communities since 2010 to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects across municipal buildings, facilities, and schools.
The seven Massachusetts state entities, municipalities, and public sector individuals receiving awards for their leadership are:
Public Entity Awardees-
- Department of Developmental Services (DDS
- Cape Cod Community College
- The MassDOT Highway Division
- City of Beverly
- Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant (AMLP)
Public Sector Individual Awardees-
- Shawn Luz, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Framingham
- Elizabeth Minnis, Deputy Commissioner for Planning at DCAMM
Since taking office, the Baker-Polito Administration has invested more than $12.6 million in grant funding through the Leading by Example program to state agencies and higher education institutions to advance clean energy efforts. Since 2010, DOER has awarded nearly $160 million to Green Communities in Designation Grants and Competitive Grants which help municipalities reduce energy use and costs by implementing clean energy projects and energy efficiency measures. For more information, please visit the program’s webpage.
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