EPA Proposes to Broaden Exclusions to Allow Hazardous Waste Reclamation

March 19, 2007

The proposed rule would provide for the recycling of such materials as solvents, metals, and certain other chemicals.

"This proposal recognizes that recycling secondary materials can both help the environment and reduce costs," said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "By encouraging legitimate recycling practices that are environmentally protective, this proposal presents a win-win for the environment and for the economy."

EPA estimates that streamlining the management of secondary materials in a cost efficient but safe manner will result in an average cost savings of $107 million a year from both reduced regulatory burden and increased recycling.

The proposed rule provides exclusions for:

  • Materials that are generated and reclaimed under the control of the generator
  • Materials that are generated and transferred to another person or company for reclamation under specific conditions
  • Materials that EPA deems non-waste through a case-by-case petition process.

The proposal also defines legitimate recycling to ensure that only legitimate recycling activity benefits from the streamlined requirements, not treatment or disposal under the guise of recycling.

EPA estimates about 4,600 facilities handling more than half a million tons of hazardous secondary materials annually may be affected by this proposed rule. The industry sectors that could be most affected are chemical manufacturing, coating and engraving, semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and the industrial waste management industry.

EPA is accepting comment on this proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. The docket number is EPA-HQ-RCRA-2002-0031 and is available for public viewing.

Federal Court Throws Lax Limits on Emissions from Brick and Tile Makers


Last week, a federal court threw out the EPA's weak Clean Air Act standards for more than 500 plants that manufacture brick and clay structural products and ceramics. The court found that EPA's standards directly violated the law and previous decisions.

This lawsuit was brought by Sierra Club, represented in court by Earthjustice. At issue were the highly protective requirements in the Clean Air Act's toxic provisions, which require EPA to set standards for entire industries that reflect the emission levels achieved by the cleanest plants that are currently in operation. 

Brick kilns and ceramics kilns emit more that 6,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the air each year, including hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid, and particulate matter containing toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, and lead, which can lead to cancer, respiratory damage, and neurological and organ damage. For many kilns, EPA refused to require any limit on toxic emissions at all. For others EPA set standards that — in direct violation of the Clean Air Act — did not purport to reflect the emission levels achieved by the cleanest plants in the industry.

Adjustments to the Montreal Protocol Would Speed Elimination of Ozone-Depleting Substances


On March 14, 2007, the United States submitted a proposal to adjust the Montreal Protocol to accelerate the phase-out of ozone-damaging chemicals. The proposal includes four elements that can be considered individually or as a package:

  1. Accelerating the phase-out date of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 10 years
  2. Adding interim reduction steps
  3. Setting an earlier baseline
  4. Phasing out the most damaging HCFCs to the ozone layer as the first priority

These proposals further U.S. efforts to address ozone layer protection, cleaner air, and climate change by calling on the global community to act more quickly in phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

More than 190 countries participate in the Montreal Protocol to Phase Out Ozone-Depleting Substances. The Montreal Protocol was ratified in 1987 by 27 nations. Twenty years later, we have the opportunity to assess the progress that has been made under the protocol as well as what remains to be done.

Under the Montreal Protocol's first stage, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were phased out in developed countries by 1996 and replaced by less harmful HCFCs. We are now entering the Montreal Protocol's second stage, which aims to phase out HCFCs by 2030 for developed countries and by 2040 for developing countries.

The proposal would speed up the phase-out of HCFCs under the Montreal Protocol's second stage. While the Montreal Protocol already has made tremendous strides to heal the ozone shield, the United States believes more steps can be taken to reduce HCFC consumption further and achieve a total phase-out sooner than the scheduled dates. Based on analysis, experience, and more rapid technology development, the U.S. technical team believes we can move faster by as much as ten years.

Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, the U.S. has achieved a 90 percent reduction in the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances—ending the production and import of more than 1.7 billion pounds per year of these chemicals. Faster healing of the ozone layer will help prevent human health damages caused by excess UV radiation, including skin cancer.

Ozone-depleting substances—particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—are damaging to the Earth's climate system. In 2005, the U.S. reduced annual emissions of ozone-depleting substances by 1,500 million CO2-equivalent metric tons per year. U.S. actions achieved a cumulative emissions reduction of about 13,000 million CO2-equivalent metric tons from 1987-2005 (not accounting for some offset from the influence of ozone depletion on the climate).

Worldwide, the Montreal Protocol has cut in half the amount of global warming caused by ozone-destroying chemicals that would have occurred by 2010 had these chemicals not been controlled.

$2.2 Million Fine for Refinery Air Violations


Williams Refining Co., the former owner and operator of a Memphis, Tenn., petroleum refinery, has agreed to pay $2.2 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Justice Department and the EPA announced.

"EPA is committed to ensuring that all people breathe healthier, cleaner air," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This case shows that when a company violates the law by failing to control leaks of hazardous pollutants, EPA vigorously enforces the law."

Williams Refining has also agreed to resolve all allegations that it failed to comply with CAA standards regarding leak detection and repair regulations on equipment in its refinery. The agreement also resolves assertions that it failed to properly store hazardous waste as required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and one violation under the Clean Water Act for an oil pipeline rupture.

"Refineries are not exempt from environmental rules and regulations," said Matt McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. "The Justice Department is pleased to settle these allegations and will continue to investigate and prosecute those who fail to comply with environmental laws."

EPA initiated an investigation into the refinery after the company reported less than 10 megagrams of benzene emissions, an assertion that drew suspicion based on the size of the refinery. The CAA requires refineries that discharge more than 10 megagrams per year to manage their wastewater in compliance with the Benzene National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants.

In addition, the CAA requires refineries to monitor valves and pumps for leaks and to repair any leaks discovered. Further violations were discovered during an inspection on Nov. 5 and 6, 2002, and as the result of a pipeline rupture which occurred on Feb. 3, 2002.

The complaint and the settlement were filed in the Middle District of Tennessee. A portion of the penalty will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Williams owned and operated the petroleum refinery located in Memphis, Tenn., from the mid-1980s until March 2003. The refinery was purchased by Premcor Refining Group Inc. in 2003 and merged with Valero Energy Company in 2005.

How Much C02 Have You Released Today?



$34,000 Fine for Permit Violations at Power Plant


As part of a recent settlement with the EPA over federal Clean Air Act violations, Hamakua Energy Partners will fund an environmental project valued at nearly $125,000 to generate energy at a nearby school and pay an additional $34,335 in fines.

The company had failed to meet state and federal Clean Air Act permit requirements, including emission limits and emission monitoring requirements, at its power plant facility in Haina, Hawaii. Recent quarterly reports submitted to the EPA show that the facility now complies with the regulations.

The company will spend $124,165 to purchase and install a 10-Kilowatt direct current photovoltaic system to generate electricity at Honokaa High and Intermediate school. The system and all electricity generated will be donated to the school for its own use or to sell back to the local utility grid.

“The project will reduce air pollution on the Big Island by cutting demand for electricity from power plants,” said Deborah Jordan, director for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Air Division. “In addition, any electricity not used by the school can be sold back to the power grid, which will lower electricity demand elsewhere and further reduce air pollution. We are pleased that Hamakua Energy has worked cooperatively with us to resolve the violations and undertake this project.”

Hamakua Energy Partners owns a power plant facility located in Haina, Hawaii that contains two 23 megawatt combustion turbine generators. The facility, constructed in 1999, was issued a state air permit for construction and operation of the plant since it’s considered a major air pollution source.

As part of the permit, Hamakua was required to meet certain emission limits, including those for nitrogen oxides, and to install and maintain continuous air monitoring systems for each combustion turbine generator to measure carbon monoxide and opacity levels of the smokestack emissions.

Quarterly compliance reports submitted to the Hawaii Department of Health by the company identified numerous instances from 2001 to 2003 where facility emissions exceeded nitrogen oxide limits in the permit. Also, the reports identified excessive periods of time where the carbon monoxide-monitoring and opacity-monitoring systems failed to operate for both generators. Hamakua also failed to submit required quarterly reports to the EPA.

EPA Focuses Local Air Agencies Efforts on Controllable Air Pollution


Identifying exceptional events will protect the public health by allowing local air agencies to focus their efforts on air pollution emissions that can be controlled.

This final rule ensures that air quality measurements are properly evaluated and characterized with regard to their causes; identifies reasonable actions that should be taken to address the air quality and public health impacts caused by these types of events; avoids imposing unreasonable planning requirements on state, local, and tribal air quality agencies related to violations of the NAAQS due to exceptional events, and ensures that the use of air quality data, whether afforded special treatment or not, is subject to full public disclosure and review.

$325,000 Penalty for VOC Emissions from Printing Plant


EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Illinois have reached an agreement with Smurfit-Stone Container Enterprises Inc. on alleged clean-air violations at a printing plant formerly owned by the company at 1228 E. Tower Road, Schaumburg, Ill.

The agreement resolves a complaint filed in November 2006 alleging Smurfit failed to control smog-producing volatile organic compound emissions from its printing lines and failed to meet state VOC emission credit requirements. The company agreed to pay penalties totaling $325,000, which includes $162,500 to EPA and $162,500 to the state of Illinois.

Smurfit has installed a thermal oxidizer to destroy its VOC emissions and has demonstrated compliance through testing. It has also met its state VOC emission credit requirements.

Community Energy Challenge: EPA Promotes Energy Efficiency and Renewables in Cities and Towns


EPA is stepping up its efforts to promote increased energy efficiency and cleaner air by challenging all New England communities to scrutinize their energy use, take action to improve energy efficiency, and seek out renewable energy choices that reduce air pollution while saving money.

 Every community that chooses to participate in this program can receive EPA assistance in their efforts.

“Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are important to communities throughout New England because they save money, cut pollution, and reduce strain on energy resources,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Every community has opportunities to improve energy efficiency and increase their use of renewables.”

Given the high cost of energy in New England, communities across the region are finding that a growing portion of their town’s budget goes to energy bills. A typical town of 25,000 spends more than a million dollars each year on electricity and heating fuel for town buildings. If the town operates a drinking water or wastewater treatment plant, the costs are considerably higher. For many towns and cities, energy costs are second only to personnel in the budget. EPA estimates that – on average – about 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings, including public buildings, is wasted. Fortunately, opportunities abound to pursue cost-saving measures.

Communities that take the challenge will make a commitment to improve energy efficiency. Steps involved in the energy challenge include assessing the energy performance of all municipal buildings, schools, and/or waste water treatment facilities; setting a goal to reduce energy use by 10 percent or more; and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy to companies operating in the community.

The benefits of energy efficiency go beyond saving money. Energy use is the leading source of air pollution in New England and the United States. Burning fossil fuels to produce energy is by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Making towns more energy efficient saves money and helps protect our environment for future generations.

EPA will provide all participating communities with free, live web-based training in benchmarking and energy management, including follow up technical support and tracking overall progress of community achievements. Many municipalities may be eligible for national EPA recognition depending on their activities and success.

$30,000 Penalty for Failure to Register Aboveground Tanks


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that ERGON Trucking Company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $30,000 for aboveground storage tank violations discovered at the company’s crude oil storage facility in East Lackawannock Township, Mercer County.

DEP inspections of the facility revealed operational and technical violations for three, 37,800-gallon aboveground storage tanks dating back to 1998.

“ERGON failed to register its tanks for eight years, bypassing a fundamental element of Pennsylvania’s tank regulations,” DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch said. “In addition, the company did not employ certified contractors to install the three tanks, and it failed to comply with technical requirements for emergency containment, corrosion protection, and leak detection.”

ERGON has corrected the deficiencies at the site, registered the tanks and paid registration fees. A state-certified storage tank inspector conducted inspections of the tanks to verify that all violations have been corrected.

Aboveground and underground storage tanks in Pennsylvania are regulated under the Storage Tank & Spill Prevention Act of 1989 which was enacted following the catastrophic failure of a 4-million-gallon oil storage tank at an Ashland Oil Company facility near Pittsburgh in 1988, a spill that killed wildlife and contaminated drinking water supplies for 1 million people living along the Monongahela and Ohio rivers in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The state storage tank permitting process requires that operators consider site geology to ensure that tanks are located on safe and stable land, and also takes into account the potential presence of wetlands and other environmental factors.

Once a tank is installed and registered, state-certified storage tank inspectors are required to conduct proper maintenance and inspections to ensure tank integrity.

The penalty, which was received this week, will be entered into the “storage tank fund,” which helps fund permitting and inspection activities for Pennsylvania’s storage tank program.


Pacific Topsoils Fined $88,000 for Wetland Fill


The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Pacific Topsoils, Inc., $88,000 for illegally covering over a wetland on Smith Island near Everett.

Ecology has ordered the company to remove the material within 60 days, and to restore the wetlands to pre-fill conditions. Snohomish County issued a removal order on Feb. 5, 2007.

The fill, approximately 10 feet deep, covers approximately 12 acres of the company's property on an unincorporated part of Smith Island, west of SR 529. The company made no application to federal, state, or local agencies for permits to cover wetlands.

The filling began as early as January 2006, and was reported to Ecology in October 2006.

"Hundreds of businesses and homeowners obtain permits for projects in or near wetlands each year," said Gordon White, who managers Ecology's shorelines program. "Skipping out on the process can create an unfair business advantage and undermines the many efforts under way to protect and restore these important resources."

Healthy wetlands and shorelines play an especially important part in protecting and restoring the Snohomish River delta and Puget Sound region. Wetlands improve water quality, supply habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide flood protection.

New MIT Coal Report Sees Pressing Need for Global Warming Action

The report also points out that the current pace of action by the government and the private sector is too slow.


While the report offers a number of policy recommendations to accelerate action on advanced coal technology, it is silent on the most urgent coal investment issue facing the industry and the environment: What global warming emissions standards should apply to proposed new coal power plants? The facts set forth in the report justify a recommendation to require all proposed new coal plants capture carbon pollution for underground disposal, but the report sidesteps this question.

“The MIT report concludes that we have the know-how to capture and safely store heat-trapping emissions from power plants now on the drawing board, but it points out that much more needs to be done if this technology is to be used to prevent carbon pollution from coal on a massive scale,” said David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a member of the study’s advisory committee. “While energy efficiency and renewables continue to be the most effective means of cutting global warming pollution, carbon emissions’ capture and storage is essential as long as we continue using large amounts of coal.”


The MIT report also supports the significant policy of preventing a rush to coal power, pending passage of global warming pollution control laws. It recommends that Congress not “grandfather” new or existing coal plants by providing free allowances to them. Many Congressional leaders, including Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), have said they will not allow these free rides to coal developers.

“With global warming pollution limits inevitable, it makes no sense to keep building new high-polluting power plants,” said Hawkins. “Many companies have caught on, and the sooner we have effective limits on this pollution, the sooner sensible and clean technologies will flourish.”

Six Reasons to Switch Light Bulbs


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Commerce remind homeowners, apartment dwellers and businesses of the advantages to replacing incandescent lighting with ENERGY STAR-labeled compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

Six reasons to make the switch:

  1. Save money. You can save $30 or more during the life of each light bulb. Start by replacing the bulbs in the rooms you use the most. Reduce your electricity costs right away by replacing incandescent bulbs before they expire. The price of CFLs has dropped dramatically during the last few years, increasing the affordability of switching. Don't forget, they last longer, too. The ENERGY STAR standard for CFL life is 8,000 hours while a standard 75 watt bulb may only last for 750 hours.
  2. Brighter light. While early CFLs didn't match the brightness of old fashioned light bulbs, newer models are brighter and available in different shades. Pick the right light for the job. Today's ENERGY STAR labels show accurate equivalent replacement wattage. Choose a higher lumen, cool colored bulb for task lighting and use the warmer tones for general lighting. 
  3. More choices. The variety of CFLs available has greatly expanded. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and fit more fixtures than ever. Outdoor lights and dimmer models are now available. For more information on ENERGY STAR lighting visit www.energystar.gov.
  4. Save energy. According to the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year."
  5. Improve the environment. The EPA and DOE also note that if we all change one bulb Americans would "prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars."
  6. Recycle. Don't toss old CFLs in the trash - it's against the law. Contact your county household hazardous or solid waste management office for disposal options in your area. 


No mercury is released with proper use. The environmental benefits of using CFLs far outweigh the use of mercury in their production. A coal-fired power plant emits more than four times the mercury to power an incandescent light than is used in a CFL.

Every Drop Counts


A leaky faucet dripping at the rate of one drop per second will waste around 2,700 gallons per year, adding to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or straining your septic system. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has identified some easy and beneficial steps you can take to conserve water on a regular basis:

  • It's a flush! One way to reduce water in your home is to switch to an ultra-low flow toilet, which typically use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. If you have an older toilet in your home, it may be using up to seven gallons per flush!
  •  On this Web site you can use the Water Budget Calculator or take the Water Saver Home Tour. The site provides you with many more suggestions to raise the level of water conservation in your home.
  • The Metropolitan Council also offers a variety of water conservation tips, from checking regularly for leaks to installing water-saving devices throughout your household. 


New Jersey Offers Free Tree Seedlings for Arbor Day


New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced free tree seedlings are available to nonprofit groups and local organizations to celebrate Arbor Day. "Planting a tree and helping it grow can be an especially rewarding experience," Jackson said. "Not only do trees beautify our neighborhoods, they also help improve the quality of our air and water."

The New Jersey Forest Service has been promoting Arbor Day statewide since 1949, when the New Jersey Legislature designated the last Friday in April as the official day to honor trees and the people who take care of them.

Provided by the state tree nursery in Jackson and funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the 8-inch tube seedlings are packaged individually and available in boxes of 98 through April 6 or while supplies last.

Organizations requesting seedlings will receive either Eastern white pine, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, Northern white cedar, or Northern red oak—New Jersey's official state tree. Boxes are selected randomly.


Those interested in receiving more than one box are asked to make the seedling requests on their organization's letterhead. All orders should be mailed to: New Jersey Forest Service, Community Forestry Program, P.O. Box 404, Trenton, NJ 08625.

Shipping and handling is $6 for each box of free seedlings; checks can be made payable to the State of New Jersey, Forest Service. Orders can also be picked up at the state tree nursery, 370 E. Veterans' Highway, Jackson.

Learn About

Arizona’s Environmental Performance Track


A free seminar on Arizona Performance Track and environmental management systems (EMS) will be held April 3, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., at Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn, Scottsdale.

Arizona Performance Track is a voluntary partnership between Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), businesses, and other regulated entities that recognizes and rewards environmental leadership for going above and beyond the minimum requirements of the law.

"This seminar is a wonderful opportunity to get the most up-to-date information available about the Arizona Performance Track program," said ADEQ Director Steve Owens, who is scheduled to speak at the event. "The program provides benefits to participants in recognition of their commitment to environmental protection, while enabling ADEQ to more effectively focus our resources on facilities and entities that need the most attention. I encourage any interested regulated entity, as well as the public, to attend this event."

Agenda topics include reasons to join Performance Track, benefits of and criteria for membership, Performance Track for small businesses and agricultural enterprises, advice from members and environmental regulators, how to establish an EMS, EMS and the bottom line, EMS and small business, and the future of Performance Track.

Other speakers scheduled include Wayne Nastri, U.S. EPA Region 9 administrator; Frances Schultz, deputy director, EPA Region 9's communities and ecosystems division; Henry Darwin, ADEQ's administrative counsel; and representatives from three Arizona Performance Track member organizations: Jim Larsen, manager of environmental health and safety, Intel Corporation, Chandler; Rob Barnett, director of environmental systems, Ping, Phoenix; and Larry Person, senior environmental coordinator, City of Scottsdale.

The seminar is sponsored by ADEQ, the National Environmental Performance Track and the Arizona Environmental Strategic Alliance. 

Shell Chemical Agrees to $1 Million Penalty for Violations in Louisiana


Shell Chemical has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to the state and invest $5.5 million in beneficial environmental projects in a settlement with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The settlement stems from a variety of violations which occurred between 1999 and 2004 and includes Shell Chemical sites located in St. Charles and Ascension parishes.

The environmental projects consist of installing a flare reduction-flare improvement system, donating to the DEQ hurricane/storm cleanup and recovery fund, donating to an air-quality study, donating to the St. Charles Parish School system for improvement in emergency response, and donating to the St. Charles Emergency Operation Center for the purchase of equipment. The $1 million penalty will be paid into the state’s hazardous waste cleanup fund. Once that fund reaches $6 million, additional penalty money will go into the environmental trust fund.

“This is an important settlement, not just because both parties have addressed past violations, but because we have also agreed to address the needs of the future,” said DEQ Assistant Secretary Harold Leggett. “With the addition of internal audits and installation of new equipment, the Shell Chemical sites involved in this agreement will, if they have not already, see a decrease in emissions and permit violations. Also, through the environmental projects that are included in the agreement, the areas surrounding the Shell Chemical sites will see environmental improvements as well.”

The Shell Chemical sites in the agreement are Norco West, St. Charles Parish; Norco East, St. Charles Parish; St. Rose, St. Charles Parish; Taft, St. Charles Parish; and Geismar, Ascension Parish.


Trivia Question of the Week

Which uses more energy?

a. Running a water faucet for 5 minutes
b. Running a 60 watt light bulb for 12 hours