EPA Releases Annual Air Trends Report

September 19, 2003

EPA released its annual air trends report and also released new acid rain data, both of which show air quality improvement. This environmental progress comes even as the country has experienced a 164 percent increase in gross domestic product, a 42 percent increase in energy consumption and a 155 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled.

The report, "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2002 Status and Trends," shows that since 1970 emissions of the six principle air pollutants have been cut 48 percent. Acid rain data released at the same time demonstrates the cap and trade program's success in reducing harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants.

According to the data, SO2 emissions from power plants were 10.2 million tons in 2002, nine percent lower than in 2000 and 41 percent lower than 1980. NOx emissions from power plants also continued a downward trend, measuring 4.5 million tons in 2002, a 13 percent reduction from 2000 and a 33 percent decline from 1990 emissions levels.

The President's Clear Skies proposal is based on this same market-based cap and trade approach, widely acknowledged as a model air pollution control program because it provides significant and measurable environmental and human health benefits at low implementation costs.

EPA and the Administration have proposed, and are implementing, a number of initiatives to continue the trend in air quality improvement. The NOx SIP call, which will reduce summertime emissions of ozone-producing NOx by over 60 percent; the Clear Skies Act, which calls for a 70 percent reduction of SO2, NOx and mercury; and EPA's proposed rule to cut emissions from non-road diesel engines, together will make significant progress in cleaning our nation's air. By 2020, 111 of 129 counties will meet national fine particle standards and 263 of 290 counties will attain national ozone standards. With these changes in place, a significant drop in ozone and PM levels will be seen within the next several years.

The annual Trends Report summarizes air quality information and facility emissions data for the six principal, or criteria, air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The report, based on monitoring at thousands of locations across the country, focuses primarily on national trends for the 20-year period between 1983-2002 and the 10-year period between 1993-2002.

The Acid Rain Program is on the way to achieving its goal of a 50 percent reduction from 1980 SO2 emissions. Trading under the Acid Rain Program has created financial incentives for electricity generators to look for new and low-cost ways to reduce emissions, and improve the effectiveness of pollution control equipment, at costs much lower than predicted. The level of compliance under the Acid Rain Program continues to be uncommonly high, measuring over 99 percent.

Additional information about EPA's Trends Report is available online at http://www.epa.gov/airtrends. Additional information about EPA's Acid Rain Program is available online at http://www.epa.gov/air/acidrain/index.html. EPA's acid rain data is available online at http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets.

Cabot Corp. Settles Chemical Reporting and Hazardous Waste Storage Violations

Boston-based Cabot Corp. has settled EPA complaints alleging untimely reporting of two hazardous chemical releases in 2000 and violations of hazardous storage regulations at the Cabot Supermetals plant in Boyertown, Pa. In consent agreements reached with EPA, the company agreed to pay total penalties of $98,726 to settle the alleged violations.

The company's Cabot Supermetals division supplies metal products to the electronics, aerospace, and chemical processing industries. According to EPA, Cabot released 275 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at 6:35 a.m., on February 7, 2000, but did not report the release to the National Response Center until 4:47 p.m. on February 8, 2000, or about 34 hours after discovering the release. State emergency response officials were not notified until 1 p.m., on February 9, 2000, and local authorities were not properly notified for11 days. EPA had also alleged that Cabot released 1,239 pounds of hydrofluoric acid at 7:30 p.m. on March 25, 2000, but did not notify the National Response Center and state and local emergency response officials until about four and half hours later. The company also did not provide the required follow up report to state and local officials until 433 days after the spill.

The company also settled alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the principal federal statute on hazardous waste handling, storage, and disposal. A May 2000 EPA inspection revealed that chromium-containing hazardous wastes were being stored at the Boyertown plant without a permit in two open, improperly labeled drums. EPA also cited the failure to provide hazardous waste management training to Cabot Supermetals employees, or to maintain records of such training. As part of the settlement, Cabot neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations. The company has certified that it is now in compliance with applicable hazardous chemical reporting and storage regulations. The company has also complied with an EPA order requiring the submission of a hazardous waste training program.

EPA Cites Kohl's Food Stores for Chemical Release Reporting Violations

EPA Region 5 has filed an administrative complaint against Kohl's Food Stores Inc. at 11100 W. Burleigh St. in Milwaukee, Wis., for violation of federal laws on the reporting of a hazardous chemical release. EPA has proposed a $207,350 fine.

EPA alleges that on Sept. 10, 2002, at about 6:30 a.m., there was a release of 3,800 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the facility. The release occurred when a refrigeration system pressure relief valve failed. A vapor cloud caused several businesses to be evacuated and delayed nearby railroad traffic. Some of the ammonia washed into storm water drains that flow into to the Menomonee River.

Federal laws require facilities to immediately notify the National Response Center, state and local authorities about all anhydrous ammonia releases greater than 100 pounds. Though Kohl's reported the incident to the Wisconsin State Emergency Response Commission 75 minutes after the release began, the NRC was not advised until 14 days later on Sept. 24, and the Milwaukee County Local Emergency Planning Commission was not notified as of Nov. 21, 2002 when EPA checked to see if the notification had been made. A written follow-up report, required as soon as practicable, was filed 90 days after the release with the state and local agencies.

Under federal emergency response laws, facilities cited may request a meeting with EPA within 30 days to discuss the allegations and the proposed penalty.

Gas Station Owner Faces Record $1.09 Million Penalty for Failure to Clean Up Contamination

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced that a judge has imposed a $1,090,000 penalty against a Wisconsin corporation for its failure to properly assess and clean up gasoline leakage from underground storage tanks at a site in Hartland, MI. The penalty is the largest ever issued in Michigan against a gas station owner or operator for failure to investigate and remedy such contamination.

“This record penalty should succeed where previous attempts have failed to prompt compliance by Bulk Petroleum with Michigan law,” said Attorney General Cox. “Those who pollute our state’s environment should not think for a moment that their better option is to try to evade responsibility for clean up. The longer they delay in fixing the problem, the more costly to them their mistake will be.”

The order, issued by Ingham County 30th Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Brown, is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) against Bulk Petroleum Corp., of Marinette, Wisc., over leakage which occurred at Bulk Petroleum’s Hartland gas station in 1987.

The Attorney General and DEQ are seeking $3,364,400 in fines and penalties from Bulk Petroleum for its multiple violations of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, specifically Part 213, Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST), and Part 201, Environmental Remediation. The suit also claims that Bulk Petroleum failed to comply with a June 1993 Department of Natural Resources administrative order compelling cleanup of the facility.

In awarding the penalty to the DEQ, the court cited Bulk Petroleum’s failure to submit a complete Final Assessment Report as required under Part 213 of the Act. In August 2000, the DEQ assessed a $23,400 penalty against Bulk Petroleum for failure to submit the report, but Bulk Petroleum ignored the penalty and did not pay. The court applied the maximum penalty allowed under the Act, $1,000 per day for each of the 1,090 days from August 2000 to August 2003.

Bulk Petroleum has 90 days to pay the penalty. The court stated that it is taking the case under advisement and will monitor Bulk’s progress in cleaning up the site. Whether future penalties will be assessed will be determined by Bulk Petroleum’s efforts at the Hartland site, as well as at more than a dozen other sites it owns in the state, which it has claimed it has begun cleaning up. If Bulk Petroleum fails to properly remediate the sites in a timely manner, the Attorney General’s office and the DEQ may return to court to request that Bulk Petroleum be ordered to pay the remaining $2.274 million of the total penalty sought in the lawsuit.

US Conference of Mayors Supports EPA's Water Quality Trading Policy

In a Sept. 8 letter, the Urban Water Council and the U.S. Conference of Mayors announced their support of EPA's Water Quality Trading Policy at their 71st Annual Meeting recently held in Denver. The resolution was approved by the Urban Water Council, the Environmental Committee and the 450 Mayors attending the annual meeting.

Water Quality Trading Policy is designed to cut industrial, municipal and agricultural discharges into the nation's waterways. The trading policy seeks to support and encourage states and tribes in putting into place programs that implement the requirements of the Clean Water and federal regulations in more flexible ways. This policy will help increase the pace and success of cleaning up impaired rivers, streams and lakes throughout the country and help reduce the cost of improving and maintaining the quality of the nation's waters.

Economic incentives are part of this policy by allowing one source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollutant reductions created by another source that has lower pollution control costs. The standards remain the same, but efficiency is increased and costs are decreased. Under the policy, industrial and municipal facilities would first meet technology control requirements and then could use pollution reduction credits to make further progress towards water quality goals.

In order for a water quality trade to take place, a pollution reduction "credit" must first be created. EPA's water quality trading policy states that sources should reduce pollution loads beyond the level required by the most stringent water quality based requirements in order to create a pollution reduction "credit" that can be traded. For example, a landowner or a farmer could create credits by changing cropping practices and planting shrubs and trees next to a stream. A municipal wastewater treatment plant then could use these credits to meet water quality limits in its permit. For more information on the Water Quality Trading Policy, go to http://www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/trading.htm.