In the June 8 Federal Register, EPA inserted the following 1-sentence “correction” to the definitions in the Clean Water Act section 404 program for discharges of dredged or fill material.
“In Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 190 to 259, revised as of July 1, 2016, on page 319, in Sec. 232.2, the first definition of Waters of the United States is removed.”
The portion of the definition that is being removed, is, “all waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide.” At this point, it is unclear if it was the Agency’s intent to no longer require Section 404 permits for dredge or fill permits in waterways that meet the deleted portion of the definition of Waters of the United States.
Enforcement Program Focuses on California’s Metal Recyclers, First Case Results in 19 Criminal Charges
California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced that an investigation referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has resulted in the filing of 19 criminal charges against a Sun Valley scrap metal recycler for allegedly releasing hazardous chemicals.
The charges are the first to stem from a statewide initiative that found alleged hazardous waste violations at 39 out of 42 metal recycling companies, most in environmentally burdened communities.
“This program confirms there should be continued focus on this industry,” said Hansen Pang, chief investigator of DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “Many of these facilities are in California’s most vulnerable communities. We are creating strategies to ensure these companies meet regulations, and that residents in these areas are protected.”
In the Sun Valley case, DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) found the owners and operators of ANK Metal Recycling allegedly failed to properly store and dispose of hazardous waste such as diesel fuel, heavy metals, refrigerant gases and asbestos.
The 2015 Enhanced Enforcement Initiative in Vulnerable Communities called for inspecting 40 to 45 of the state’s 2,500 metal-recycling facilities. OCI inspectors found alleged violations at 93% of those inspected, and DTSC is pursuing enforcement action on all violations.
OCI also uncovered alleged violations related to used oil filters that were not properly drained, illegally transported and improperly crushed and shredded. Four facilities have signed interim consent agreements requiring that the used oil filters they receive are properly drained and managed.
Following are some of the violations found during the initiative:
- Failure to remove materials requiring special handling, such as mercury-containing switches, capacitors, refrigerants, oils, and batteries from vehicles and appliances
- Mismanagement of metal recycling residues, such as debris and soil contaminated with hazardous waste levels of heavy metals, PCBs, and oils
- Unauthorized acceptance, storage, transportation, and treatment of undrained used oil filters and other hazardous waste
- Failure to comply with hazardous waste recordkeeping requirements
- Failure to minimize releases of hazardous waste and constituents from processing scrap metal
Utah to Consider Rules on Industrial Coating Activities
Small manufacturers would be required to use low-polluting chemicals in industrial coating activities under a proposal that the Utah Air Quality Board considered at a meeting on June 7 at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The rules already apply to large manufacturing operations, but the air quality staff is recommending that all businesses use products that produce low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a contributor to Utah’s smog-forming pollution.
In addition, the board will consider a new solvent rule that would require businesses that use 55 gallons or more of cleaning solvents a year to use low-VOC products or use solvent formulations that emit low levels of VOC’s.
VOCs are commonly found in coating activities that when emitted into the air, combine with other chemicals that form small particulate pollution (PM2.5) during the winter and ozone in the summer. DEQ has until December 2017 to submit a plan to the EPA on emission-reduction strategies that bring the Wasatch Front, Tooele, and Box Elder counties into compliance with the federal health standard for PM2.5 by 2019.
Industrial coating activities are commonly used by the following businesses:
- Graphic arts
- Auto body refinishing
- Wood and metal furniture manufacturing
- Large appliance manufacturing
- Flat wood panel manufacturing
- Aerospace manufacturing and rework facilities
- Coating of miscellaneous metal parts and products, paper, film, foil, fabric, vinyl, magnet wire, metal containers, closures, coil, and plastic parts
“Many states have already enacted VOC-limitations on a wide-range of products to help address air quality. Less-polluting products are effective and available in the marketplace that will help improve Utah’s air,” said Bryce Bird, air quality director.
Public hearings would be held in July should the board decide to propose these rules.
NRDC Sues to Block Methane Pollution Rollback
The Trump administration violated the Clean Air Act in suspending critical protections against methane leaks and other dangerous air pollution from the oil and gas industry last week, according to a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The President announced the rollback last week, shortly before declaring he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, a landmark global commitment to combat climate change pollution. This is the first lawsuit against President Trump’s EPA over rollbacks of federal efforts to fight climate change. The legal papers are here.
NRDC, together with Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The groups asked the court to block EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “stay” of federal standards that curb leaks of methane and other dangerous air pollutants from new oil and gas wells and other facilities. The leak detection and repair requirements were scheduled to take full effect on June 3, and EPA’s stay was published in the Federal Register this morning.
Pruitt issued the 90-day stay without any advance public notice or opportunity for public comment, as required by law. This is the first step the EPA is taking to dismantle methane standards; the stay notice indicates that Pruitt he would soon propose to extend the stay indefinitely.
The oil and gas sector is the largest U.S. industrial emitter of methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide.
Leaking oil and gas facilities also release smog-forming and cancer-causing chemicals that trigger asthma attacks and increase cancer risks for people living nearby.
EPA’s detection and repair program is crucial to identify and stop leaks, which can occur in very large volumes, of methane and other pollutants from the hundreds of valves, pumps, tanks, and other equipment at oil and gas wells, as well as in the pipeline network that brings the gas to market. Finding and fixing these leaks is technically simple, cost-effective, prevents wasted gas, and creates high-paying jobs.
NRDC and others released a report in 2014 that shows EPA can cut methane pollution in half, while dramatically reducing other harmful air pollution at the same time, by issuing federal standards for new and existing infrastructure nationwide.
Last week, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, a global commitment that 195 nations approved to combat climate change.
Turning Car Plastics into Foams with Coconut Oil
End-of-life vehicles, with their plastic, metal and rubber components, are responsible for millions of tons of waste around the world each year. Now, one team reports in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering that the plastic components in these vehicles can be recycled with coconut oil and re-used as foams for the construction, packaging and automotive industries.
Recycled polycarbonate (PC) and polyurethane (PUR) are ideal for building insulation, refrigerators, cushions and packaging products. But it can be challenging for plastic car components to get to that point. Some plastic wastes from vehicles can be easily reprocessed; however, PC and PUR materials require a more arduous chemical recycling method. In addition, paints and coatings on PC and PUR plastics from cars typically interfere with the process, causing the recycled product to deteriorate. And simply adding some types of recycled PC and PUR materials to existing insulation foams, for example, can make the foams too dense or brittle. Although researchers have developed various chemical recycling techniques, very few have tried to make useable products with them. Hynek Bene?, Aleksander Prociak and colleagues wanted to take a new approach to converting PC and PUR into recycled materials, with the hopes of increasing their applications.
The researchers previously had shown that coconut oil could degrade PC. Here, the team developed a way to recover PC and PUR from waste car plastics with coconut oil and microwaves. This created a renewable and recycled product that did not degrade. This product can be combined with an existing foam and the integrity of the insulation foam is maintained. Furthermore, this new material was stable at high temperatures, making it ideal for incorporation into insulating materials for the construction industry.
Senate Passes Bipartisan Wildlife Conservation Legislation
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and committee ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) released the following statements regarding the Senate passage of S. 826, the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) Act.
“The Senate has passed important bipartisan conservation legislation,” said Barrasso. “The WILD Act rewards innovative ideas to safeguard threatened species and keep invasive species under control. The legislation will also reauthorize vital conservation programs. The WILD Act will enhance conservation efforts in America and around the world."
"American ingenuity has always been our best tool in meeting the challenges our country has faced, so it just makes sense that we would harness that same innovative spirit in order to find smart ways to protect imperiled species and address the threat that invasive species present to our native fish, wildlife and plants,” said Carper. “The WILD Act, which I was proud to introduce with Chairman Barrasso, takes lessons learned from experts on the ground and aims to spur our efforts to find new and better ways to manage and conserve wildlife and give these creatures a fighting chance. Inspiring the creative ideas of tomorrow benefits us all, and I am so pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined us in this common sense and bipartisan effort."
Barrasso and Carper introduced the WILD Act on April 4, 2017. The WILD Act is cosponsored by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The WILD Act will promote wildlife conservation, assist in the management of invasive species, and help protect endangered species. The bipartisan legislation will reauthorize government conservation programs. It will also establish prize competitions to prevent illegal poaching and trafficking, manage invasive species, promote conservation, protect endangered wildlife, and develop non-lethal methods to manage wildlife.
The WILD Act is also supported by a diverse group of stakeholders, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and the Family Farm Alliance.
Specifically, the WILD Act will:
- Reauthorize and fund the Department of the Interior’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program until fiscal year 2022
- Require federal agencies to implement strategic programs to control invasive species
- Reauthorize legislation to protect endangered species such as elephants, great apes, tigers, and others
- Establish the Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize competitions, which will award monetary-prizes for technological innovation in the following categories:
- the prevention of wildlife poaching and trafficking
- the promotion of wildlife conservation
- the management of invasive species
- the protection of endangered species
- the use of nonlethal methods to control wildlife
New York Leads Coalition Against Roll Back of Key Vehicle Emission Standards
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, is leading a coalition of 13 Attorneys General and the PA Department of Environmental Protection, that warned the Trump Administration that any effort to roll back key vehicle emission standards would be met by a “vigorous” court challenge. In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the coalition makes clear that it will take legal action if the EPA attempts to weaken air pollution standards set for passenger cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2022 to 2025.
“Reducing pollution from cars and trucks is vital to New Yorkers’ and all Americans’ health and environment, as we protect the clean air we’ve worked so hard to achieve and fight climate change,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “Any effort to roll back these affordable, achievable, and common-sense vehicle emission standards would be both irrational and irresponsible. We stand ready to vigorously and aggressively challenge President Trump’s dangerous anti-environmental agenda in court—as we already have successfully done.”
In 2012, through a years-long cooperative process that included the principal U.S. automotive regulators—EPA, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA)—the auto industry itself, and other stakeholders, EPA adopted increasingly stringent standards for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light-duty trucks for the 2017–25 model years. EPA also agreed to complete a midterm evaluation to confirm achievability of the more stringent standards for model years 2022–25. The 2022–25 standards alone would slash carbon emissions by the equivalent of removing 422 million cars from the road (dramatically cutting GHG emissions by 540 million metric tons), as well as improve vehicles’ fuel economy—resulting in net benefits of nearly $100 billion total, including a net savings of $1,650 for each consumer over the lifetime of a new vehicle.
EPA completed its midterm evaluation in January 2017. Consistent with legal requirements, the evaluation included a detailed technical assessment of a number of factors, including the availability and effectiveness of technology, the costs to manufacturers and consumers, and the impact of the standards on emission reductions, energy security, fuel savings, and automobile safety. Based on this assessment, EPA, CARB, and NHSTA issued a report finding that the current GHG emission standards for model years 2022–25 can be met using existing available vehicle technology. After extensive public notice and comment, EPA then concluded that the current emission standards are feasible at reasonable cost, will achieve significant carbon dioxide emissions reductions, and will provide significant economic and environmental benefits to consumers, and issued its final decision to keep these standards in place.
Nonetheless, in March 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would “revisit” EPA’s midterm evaluation decision. This announcement was followed by a May 2 letter to California Governor Brown in which Administrator Pruitt asserted that the previous midterm evaluation was legally and procedurally flawed.
In their recent letter, the coalition expresses its strong disagreement with Administrator Pruitt’s contention that EPA’s midterm evaluation process was flawed, providing a point-by-point rebuttal of the Administrator’s criticisms. The letter states that, in light of the facts related to the evaluation, “The characterization in your May 2 letter that EPA ‘circumvented’ the required legal and scientific processes in its midterm evaluation is erroneous and inconsistent with your stated desire to ‘follow the letter of the law.’”
The coalition concludes the letter with the warning that “if EPA acts to weaken or delay the current standards for model years 2022–25, we intend to vigorously pursue appropriate legal remedies to block such action.”
Attorney General Schneiderman is leading the coalition, which includes the Attorneys General of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Attorney General Schneiderman and his fellow Attorneys General have already successfully taken on the Trump administration’s environmental agenda, resulting in the administration reversing course on energy efficiency standards last month. Attorney General Schneiderman also leads the coalition of state and localities defending the Clean Power Plan; he has taken action to oppose President Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, allow the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos to remain in food, and roll back clean air standards for smog.
This matter is being handled by Senior Counsel Michael J. Myers, Affirmative Section Chief Yueh-Ru Chu, Assistant Attorney General John Turrettini, Chief Scientist Alan Belensz, and Staff Scientist Jennifer Nalbone, under the supervision of Lemuel M. Srolovic, Chief of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. The Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.
Another Record-Breaking Year for Renewable Energy: More Renewable Energy Capacity for Less Money
On June 7, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) published its Renewables 2017 Global Status Report, the most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy.
Additions in installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts installed, increasing total global capacity by almost 9% over 2015, to nearly 2,017 gigawatts. Solar photovoltaic accounted for around 47% of the capacity added, followed by wind power at 34% and hydropower at 15%.
Renewables are becoming the least costly option. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less. This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries.
Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least costly option.
“We all want a healthy environment and healthy people, and clean energy is a central part of the solution,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “A global transition to renewable energy technologies like solar and wind are also key ingredients of delivering on the Paris Agreement, keeping the global temperature rise below 2?C and avoiding catastrophic climate change. This new report shows where we are on this journey, and the data is clear: we need to move faster.”
“The world is adding more renewable power capacity each year than it adds in new capacity from all fossil fuels combined,” said Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21. One of the most important findings of this year’s GSR, is that holistic, systemic approaches are key and should become the rule rather than the exception.
“As the share of renewables grows we will need investment in infrastructure as well as a comprehensive set of tools: integrated and interconnected transmission and distribution networks, measures to balance supply and demand, sector coupling (for example the integration of power and transport networks); and deployment of a wide range of enabling technologies.”
The inherent need for “baseload” is a myth. Integrating large shares of variable renewable generation can be done without fossil fuel and nuclear “baseload” with sufficient flexibility in the power system—through grid interconnections, sector coupling and enabling technologies such as ICT, storage systems electric vehicles and heat pumps.
This sort of flexibility not only balances variable generation, it also optimizes the system and reduces generation costs overall. It comes as no surprise, therefore that the number of countries successfully managing peaks approaching or exceeding 100% electricity generation from renewable sources are on the rise. In 2016, Denmark and Germany, for example, successfully managed peaks of renewables electricity of 140% and 86.3%, respectively.
Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable for a third year in a row despite a 3% growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This can be attributed primarily to the decline of coal, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency.
Other positive trends include:
- Innovations and breakthroughs in storage technology will increasingly provide additional flexibility to the power system. In 2016, approximately 0.8 gigawatts of new advanced energy storage capacity became operational, bringing the year-end total to an estimated 6.4 gigawatts.
- Markets for mini-grids and stand-alone systems are evolving rapidly and Pay-As-You-Go business models, supported by mobile technology, are exploding. In 2012, investments in Pay-As-You-Go solar companies amounted to only $3 million; by 2016 that figure had risen to $223 million (up from $158 million in 2015).
But the energy transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement
Investments are down. Although global investment in new renewable power and fuel capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, investments in new renewable energy installations were down 23% compared to 2015. Among developing and emerging market countries, renewable energy investment fell 30%, to $116.6 billion, while that of developed countries fell 14% to $125 billion. Investment continues to be heavily focused on wind and solar photovoltaic, however, all renewable energy technologies need to be deployed in order to keep global warming well below 2?C.
The deployment of renewable technologies in the heating and cooling sector remains a challenge in light of the unique and distributed nature of this market. Renewables-based decarbonization of the transport sector is not yet being seriously considered, or seen as a priority. Despite a significant expansion in the sales of electric vehicles, primarily due to the declining cost of battery technology, much more needs to be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure is in place and that they are powered by renewable electricity. While the shipping and aviation sectors present the greatest challenges, government policies or commercial disruption have not sufficiently stimulated the development of solutions.
Globally, subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power continue to dramatically exceed those for renewable technologies. By the end of 2016 more than 50 countries had committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and some reforms have occurred, but not enough. In 2014, the ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies was 4:1. For every $1 spent on renewables, governments spent $4 perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels.
“The world is in a race against time,” said Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. “The single most important thing we could do to reduce CO2 emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables. Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement is unfortunate. But the renewables train has already left the station and those who ignore renewables’ central role in climate mitigation risk being left behind.”
Groups Sue EPA Over Refusal to Ban Pesticide
A dozen health, labor, and civil rights organizations represented by Earthjustice filed an administrative appeal to the EPA Monday, urging the federal government to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used agricultural pesticide that has been linked to reduced IQ, loss of working memory and attention deficit disorder in children.
The attorney generals of New York, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, and Vermont filed their own appeal calling for a ban also Monday. It is now up to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to decide the appeal.
Earthjustice appeal to the EPA was filed on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Learning Disability Association of America, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council.
“EPA has repeatedly found chlorpyrifos unsafe, particularly for children, and strengthened that view every time it’s reviewed the science,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice managing attorney handling the case. “Based on the science and the law, the only credible thing to do to protect public health is ban this toxic pesticide.”
In March, the EPA refused to ban chlorpyrifos arguing the science is “unresolved” and that it would study the issue until 2022. With this action, the EPA reversed its own proposal to ban all food crop uses of chlorpyrifos. The agency took this position even though EPA found chlorpyrifos unsafe in drinking water in 2014 and 2015. And even though in late 2016 EPA concluded there is no safe level of chlorpyrifos exposure in food or drinking water, and that workers are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide even with maximum protective controls. In 2016, the EPA also confirmed chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes adjacent to agricultural areas.
This appeal comes two months after Earthjustice asked federal appeals court judges to order the EPA to decide now whether to ban the pesticide. That court ruling is pending. The new appeal challenges, on its merits, the EPA’s March action that allows chlorpyrifos to continue to be used on food crops.
Since Administrator Pruitt has said he wants to delay the pesticide ban, the groups have also filed a court case that asks the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco to decide the issues presented in the administrative appeal because of the likelihood of a delayed resolution by the EPA. In addition, Earthjustice, along with Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, UFW, PAN North America, and NRDC, submitted nearly 150,000 comments to the EPA asking for a ban.
Chlorpyrifos was banned from residential use 17 years ago. Yet this organophosphate—which comes from the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas—is still widely used on strawberries, apples, citrus, and more. It is linked to long-term damage to children’s developing brains and nervous systems at low levels of exposure during pregnancy and early childhood. It is also acutely toxic.
While families across the country are at risk, farmworkers and children in Latino communities in rural areas face disproportionate exposure. Just in May more than 50 farmworkers picking cabbage outside of Bakersfield, California, were likely exposed to chlorpyrifos that may have drifted from a nearby field. At least twelve people reported symptoms of vomiting and nausea. One person fainted.
EPA Attempts to Eliminate Backlog of New Chemicals Awaiting EPA Approval
The EPA has split by half the backlog of new chemical submissions being reviewed under the Toxic Substances Control Act, bringing the number of cases down from roughly 300 to 150 with plans to fully eliminate the backlog by the end of July. The agency will provide weekly web updates on the status of the backlog and the chemicals’ review status to increase transparency for the public and the regulated community.
On June 22, 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act amended how requests for new chemicals (called pre-manufacture notices or PMNs) would be reviewed by EPA, requiring that EPA make an “affirmative finding” on whether a new chemical presents an unreasonable risk and addressing that unreasonable risk before allowing it to be commercialized. EPA reviews about 1,000 new chemicals per year, and must complete the review of each submission within a specified timeframe, resulting in about 300 chemicals under review at any given time. By January 2017, the number under review had grown to about 600. EPA is working hard to get the number of submissions under review back to the baseline.
EPA Requires Imperial County Company to Safely Manage Pesticides
The EPA recently announced a settlement with Rockwood Chemical Company over an improperly stored and labeled agricultural pesticide at its facility in Brawley, California. The company, a pesticide re-packager and distributor, will pay a $50,929 civil penalty and has corrected all identified compliance issues.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation inspected the Brawley facility, in Imperial County, in 2016. Based on those inspections, EPA asserted multiple violations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates the storage, labeling, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the U.S.
“All types of violations—from improper containment areas to poor recordkeeping—can lead to spills or leaks of pesticides,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Facilities that produce or refill pesticides must follow federal requirements to protect their workers, the public, and the environment.”
Rockwood repackages and distributes Eptam 7E, an herbicide which is injected into soil or applied through irrigation systems. In humans, it is a nerve signal disruptor and harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
The inspection found that Rockwood did not have a proper containment pad in the area where trucks park to refill its bulk pesticide storage tank. Containment pads are required at such facilities to intercept leaks and spills. The inspection also found that the Brawley facility failed to:
- Anchor its pesticide storage tank
- Seal cracks in its refilling containment area
- Keep proper inspection and maintenance records
- Keep records of the repackaging of the pesticide into refillable containers
Additionally, the facility’s bulk pesticide storage container did not include required label information, including the EPA establishment number, which identifies where the pesticide was last produced.
FIFRA helps safeguard the public by ensuring that pesticides are used, stored, and disposed of safely. Pesticide registration and labeling requirements protect public health and the environment by minimizing risks associated with the production, handling, and application of pesticides. Pesticide registrants and re-packagers must comply with the regulations, while consumers are required to follow the label instructions for proper use and disposal.
Shah Property Corp. Fined $30,000 for Waste Site Cleanup Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed a $30,000 penalty on the Shah Property Corporation for violating state oil and hazardous materials cleanup regulations at their property located at 41 Jefferson Street in Westfield.
The site is an abandoned commercial property that had been historically occupied by three machine companies and an industrial laundry service, which also provided dry cleaning services. Shah Property failed to conduct the necessary assessment and remediation of the soil and groundwater at the site.
In April 2000, the owner of an adjacent property filed a Downgradient Property Status document with MassDEP, demonstrating that petroleum contamination of its soil and groundwater originated from the 41 Jefferson Street site. Preliminary response actions were performed by the property owner at that time. Prior to obtaining ownership of the property, Shah Property contacted MassDEP and was notified that although preliminary response action had been conducted at the site in the past, additional work is necessary before the site could be closed out under the Massachusetts cleanup regulations.
On January 20, 2011, Shah Property purchased the site and on April 22, 2011, MassDEP issued a notice to Shah Property, which documented the legal responsibilities under state laws to perform the cleanup actions necessary to address the release of oil and/or hazardous material at the site. Shah Property did not conduct the response actions as required by MassDEP.
This failure was detailed in a Notice of Noncompliance that MassDEP issued to Shah Property in 2014. MassDEP's 2014 notice established new deadlines to complete the required assessment and remediation. Shah Property failed to comply with the new deadlines established in the notice and failed to participate in an enforcement conference scheduled to discuss the violation in 2016.
As a result of the repeated failure to conduct the necessary work or to respond to MassDEP, a Penalty Assessment Notice in the amount of $30,000 was issued along with a Unilateral Order, which sets a schedule for Shah Property to come into compliance by conducting the necessary assessment and cleanup to bring the site to closure.
"MassDEP has made numerous attempts to assist Shah Property Corporation in complying with Massachusetts environmental regulations to clean up this property," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western Regional Office in Springfield. "It is regrettable that failure to work cooperatively to address the necessary cleanup at the abandoned property has resulted in the assessment of this penalty."
New Laws in Effect to Protect New Hampshire Water Bodies from Aquatic Invasive Species Infestations
As the boating season is beginning in earnest, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) reminds boaters of a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2017 to prevent additional aquatic invasive species infestations. Specifically, the law prohibits any transport of any aquatic plants on recreational gear and related trailers, and goes further to require that boats and other water-containing devices be in the open drain position during transportation. Violators could face fines ranging from $50–$200. This law is being enforced by New Hampshire Marine Patrol, conservation officers and other peace officers.
Freshwater aquatic invasive plants and animals are those that are not naturally found in New Hampshire’s lakes, ponds, and rivers. Because they are not native, they have no predators or diseases, allowing them to grow quickly and dominate the freshwater systems and impact the native plants, fish, and aquatic insects already present. Aquatic invasive species can lead to reduced shorefront property values, water quality impairments, and problems with the aesthetic and recreational values of waterbodies.
According to Amy Smagula, the NHDES Exotic Species Program Coordinator, “New Hampshire now has a total of 74 infested lakes and 11 infested rivers, most containing variable milfoil as the primary invasive plant, while others have fanwort, Eurasian water milfoil and water chestnut, among other common species. Dozens of waterbodies also support the Chinese mystery snail, which is an aquatic invasive animal, and four waterbodies support the Asian clam, also an aquatic invasive animal.”
Lake Hosts are present at many public access sites, and spend time educating boaters and performing critical courtesy boat inspections to check for invasive species tagalongs, but boaters are encouraged to do their own routine checks as well. Specifically, NHDES strongly encourages boaters to practice the “Clean, Drain, Dry” protocol, to ensure that their gear is free and clear of any potential invasive species or other contaminants:
- CLEAN off any plants, animals, and algae found during your inspection and dispose of it away from a waterbody
- DRAIN your boat, bait buckets, bilges, and other equipment away from the waterbody, leaving your boat’s drain in the open position during transport
- DRY anything that comes into contact with the water
NHDES urged lake and river residents and visitors to routinely monitor for aquatic invasive species and report new infestations of anything suspicious early. Look for plants or animals that appear to be growing or increasing in number quickly, and that do not appear to be part of the native aquatic community. For more information or to report a potential new infestation, please contact the Exotic Species Program Coordinator at Amy.Smagula@des.nh.gov or 603-271-2248.
EPA Reaches Settlement on Tanker Truck Oil Spill in San Diego
The EPA recently announced a settlement with the SoCo Group, Inc., to resolve federal claims stemming from its 2016 oil spill in San Diego, California. SoCo, a petroleum marketing and distribution company based in Carlsbad, California, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of almost $59,400.
On May 13, 2016, a SoCo tanker truck was allegedly traveling at an unsafe speed and overturned while transitioning from Interstate 8 onto Morena Boulevard. The truck discharged approximately 88 barrels (3,715 gallons) of diesel fuel, which migrated through storm drains into the San Diego River and adjoining shorelines. The river flows into Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Within minutes of the spill, the SoCo Group activated its emergency response contractor to begin clean-up and prevent further spread of the fuel. Within 72 hours, an estimated 3,000 gallons were recovered. About 60 cubic yards of contaminated vegetation and 900 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed and disposed of at a permitted facility. EPA was one of several agencies, including the San Diego County Environmental Health’s Hazardous Materials Division, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Public Works, the San Diego Police Department, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were involved in the cleanup, which was completed in September 2016.
EPA to Extend Compliance Dates for the Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category
In response to administrative petitions for reconsideration, EPA has proposed to postpone compliance dates in the effluent limitations guidelines and standards for the steam electric point source category under the Clean Water Act, published in the Federal Register on November 3, 2015. Specifically, EPA has proposed to postpone the compliance dates for the new, and more stringent, best available technology economically achievable effluent limitations and pretreatment standards for each of the following wastestreams: fly ash transport water, bottom ash transport water, flue gas desulfurization wastewater, flue gas mercury control wastewater, and gasification wastewater. These compliance dates would be postponed until EPA completes reconsideration of the 2015 Rule.
Comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before July 6, 2017.
Mesabi Nugget Fined $150,000 for Air Permit Violations
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded a joint enforcement action and have reached a settlement with Mesabi Nugget Delaware, LLC, for state and federal air quality permit violations at the company’s idled Aurora, Minnesota, facility. Air quality rules like these are designed to protect human health and the environment.
Mesabi Nugget will pay a $150,000 penalty and fulfill related requirements prior to re-starting the plant.
Permit violations included emission test failures of particulate matter (dust), mercury, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions. Federal and state air quality permits are designed to limit excessive amounts of these types of pollutants due to potential harm to air and human health.
Though the company’s Aurora facility is currently not operating, this agreement requires the company to:
- Install and operate mercury and other monitoring systems
- Develop and submit site-specific preventative maintenance plans
- Demonstrate compliance with emission limits after the plant’s yet-to-be-determined re-start date
Environmental rules and regulations are essential tools used to protect Minnesota’s environment. For more information about how the agency encourages compliance, and incorporates a variety of tools to respond to non-compliance, visit the MPCA’s Enforcement primer webpage.
Fishing Boat Owner Fined for Oil Spill at Ocean Shores
The owner of the fishing trawler Privateer has been fined $7,000 for spilling approximately 3,465 gallons of diesel and lube oil when the vessel ran aground at Ocean Shores in April 2016.
The Washington Department of Ecology has also ordered JP Fishing, LLC, to reimburse Washington state $29,142 for its response efforts, helicopter flights, and lab sample analysis.
The vessel washed up on the beach after striking a submerged rock near the mouth of Grays Harbor on April 15. It was pounded by the surf for 22 days before responders were able to safely access it, and it took 54 days before they could dismantle and remove it. State health officials issued a warning against harvesting razor clams at Copalis Beach due to the risk of oil contamination. Nearly all of the vessel was salvaged and removed from the beach by June 7.
“Thousands of gallons of diesel and oil spilled into the ocean at one of our treasured coastal beaches. It took a toll on the environment, and required a major response effort,” said David Byers, Ecology’s spill response manager, in issuing the penalty and cost reimbursement order.
“The loss of this vessel was tragic and we are saddened by any oil spill. Vessels like the Privateer provide many jobs. These jobs include those who work on the vessel, employees at the processing plant plus many more people who handle and sell the product after processing. This vessel provided substantial support to the local economy,” said John Phillips of JP Fishing LLC, of Seattle.
Under state law, the owner also faces a Resource Damage Assessment for harm caused to public resources. When a person spills oil into Washington waters, they are responsible for adequately compensating the public for harm to their resources. This may take the form of a restoration and enhancement project or study, or the owner may be assessed a fee that is paid into a restoration fund managed by the state for such projects.
Final compensation will be determined by a committee representing state agencies that include the departments of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Health, Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the state Parks and Recreation Commission. Ecology chairs the committee.
19 Attorneys General Sign Alliance in Support of Paris Climate Agreement
Following President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, 19 Attorneys General, joined forces with governors, mayors, business leaders and universities across the country pledging to maintain their commitment to fighting climate change and abiding by the principles of the global agreement.
The open letter—addressed to the international community—signals that the signatories intend to work together to pursue climate goals and help ensure that the United States remains a global leader in reducing emissions. The signatories to the “We Are Still In” coalition, released the following statement:
“We, the undersigned mayors, governors, attorneys general, college and university leaders and businesses are joining forces for the first time to declare, that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.
In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations—inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses—came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.
The Trump administration’s announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.
In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in GHG emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities and businesses representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.
It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2?C and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.”
The Paris Climate Agreement requires participating countries to limit global warming to well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from preindustrial levels and encourages them to pursue efforts to keep temperature increases to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
The “We Are Still In” coalition pledges to ensure that despite the country’s exit from the agreement the United States will continue to be a leader in reducing GHG emissions.
Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Potent Climate Pollution
On June 8, U.S. Congressmen Scott Peters (CA-52) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) introduced the bipartisan Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction, or SUPER Act, to combat the emission of short-lived climate pollutants, benefit public health, and repair American climate leadership. Super pollutants include black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and methane. They cause about 25 to 2,000 times more warming per ton over a 25- to 100-year period than carbon dioxide, making them among the most significant drivers of climate change. The SUPER Act would establish a federal task force to coordinate and optimize existing efforts at various levels of government to reduce super pollutant emissions.
According to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, cutting short lived climate pollutants can avoid up to 0.6?C of warming at mid-century, compared to 0.1?C of avoided warming from aggressive cuts to CO2.
“One week after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, this demonstrates the growing bipartisan will in Congress to act on climate,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “Super pollutants are the low-hanging fruit in the fight to slow climate change. Existing technologies have been proven effective at reducing these potent gases. By coordinating efforts across multiple levels of government, the SUPER Act would help make the U.S. federal government a leader in reducing these pollutants and keeping our air and water clean. Thank you to Rep. Curbelo for being a partner on this, and I look forward to continue working together on pro-growth climate solutions.”
Reps. Peters and Curbelo are both members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. The SUPER Act’s original co-sponsors also include Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-06), Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Rep. John Delaney (MD-06), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (IL-03), and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47).
"While the focus is always on carbon, we need a full picture of all emissions that diminish our ozone, impact our climate, and accelerate sea level rise,” Rep. Curbelo said. “This Task Force would be a significant first step to ensuring that our nation has all the information needed to accurately protect our environment from these pollutants.”
In San Diego, methane capture technologies at Miramar Landfill generate electricity and partially meet the energy demands of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plan captures methane to produce energy that makes them energy self-sufficient.
According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, reducing global emissions of short-lived climate pollutants can quickly cut the rate of global temperature rise in half by 2050, when combined with reductions of global emissions of carbon dioxide.
“Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. The SUPER Act, targeting super pollutants with short life times, is exactly the sort of urgent action we need to limit climate change within decades; and thus, protect the poor and the vulnerable from storms, droughts and heat waves,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Distinguished Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. “It also will reduce harmful exposure to air pollution for all Americans. If enacted globally, it can cut the rate of warming by half before 2050, save over 2 million lives lost to air pollution and save as much as 50 million tons of crops destroyed by ozone exposure. The SUPER Act, along with the Paris agreement will pave the way for stabilizing climate change in our life time.”
“Cutting these super pollutants is a critical step in making the planet great again,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The SUPER Act introduced by Congressman Peters shows how to slam on the breaks to slow near-term warming and will inspire action on campuses, in corporations, in cities and states, and around the world.”
EPA Announces Student Award Winners
The EPA recently announced the winners of the 2016 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The program recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects by K–12 youth. These students demonstrate the initiative, creativity, and applied problem-solving skills needed to tackle environmental problems and find sustainable solutions.
Fifteen projects are being recognized this year, from 13 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
“Today, we are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities, and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”
Each year the PEYA program honors environmental awareness projects developed by young individuals, school classes (kindergarten through high school), summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations.
This year’s PEYA winners conducted a wide range of activities, such as:
- Developing a biodegradable plastic using local agricultural waste product
- Designing an efficient, environmentally friendly mosquito trap using solar power and compost by-product
- Saving approximately 2,000 tadpoles to raise adult frogs and toads
- Implementing a hydroponics and aquaculture project in a high school
- Repurposing over 25,000 books
- Creating an environmental news YouTube channel
- Organizing recycling programs to benefit disaster victims and underserved community members
- Reclaiming and repurposing over 4,000 discarded pencils within their school
- Promoting food waste reduction
- Creating a small, portable tool to prevent air strikes of migratory birds
- Engaging their community in a program to save a threatened bird, the Western Snowy Plover
- Testing grey water to encourage water conservation
- Promoting bee health
- Uniting their schools to address local environmental issues
The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation's natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people for protecting our nation's air, water, land and ecology. It is one of the most important ways EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation's youth.