A new national regulation will help further reduce smog-forming emissions from aerosol spray paints—such as clear coatings, nonflat coatings, and primers.
The regulation, the first nationwide rule for aerosol spray paints, limits emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react with nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, or smog. The new rule focuses on reducing the VOCs with the highest ozone-forming potential, which also is known as reactivity.
EPA modeled the rule on the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) reactivity-based regulation for aerosol coatings. Nearly 85% of the spray paints used in the United States are produced by three companies, which already meet the CARB requirements.
The new national regulation will provide flexibility for paint producers, especially smaller ones who may produce niche products, by allowing them to choose the VOCs they reduce, provided they meet emissions limits. Previous regulations focused on reducing the compounds by mass, without regard to their smog-forming potential.
Manufacturers that can demonstrate they produce aerosol paints containing less than 7,500 kilograms (8.3 tons) of VOCs annually are not covered by this regulation.
Go Green for the Holidays
Between the stuffing of the turkey and ringing in the New Year, California, like the rest of the nation, generates an enormous amount of waste. But the California Integrated Waste Management Board has some holiday waste management tips that even the Grinch can't steal.
Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, it is estimated that an extra million tons of waste are generated nationwide each week. In fact, 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year—enough to tie a bow around the Earth!
"We can all get a little carried away with the season’s festivities," said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown.
1. Buy gifts made from recycled products.
When it comes to gifts, the Board suggests giving the ones that "Yule" remember.
. According to the Board, some of the most memorable gifts can have the least environmental impact, with a little forethought. Gift certificates, tickets to sporting and entertainment events, and homemade items all have special meanings to those on the receiving end.
Given the number of Christmas gifts sure to run on batteries this season, the Board reminds buyers that rechargeable power sources are easier on the environment and can be thrifty in the long run.
2. Be creative when wrapping gifts.
When it comes to wrapping that special holiday season gift, the Board offers waste-not tips that can rival the gifts themselves in thought and ingenuity. Instead of purchasing reams of expensive wrapping paper, why not substitute reusable boxes, brightly colored canvas tote bags, colorful pillow cases or holiday fabric for toys and similar items, dish towels for kitchen ware, oven mitts for utensils, tablecloths for eating and dining presents, or hang earrings, bracelets, and other jewelry on the Christmas tree itself? Check stores for recycled-content holiday cards and envelopes or make them yourself. Gift tags can be made from last year's recycled holiday cards.
3. Make gift opening an environmentally friendly effort.
When it comes to opening those mountains of holiday gifts, there are ways to manage and minimize waste by following some simple recommendations:
- Set aside large box containers to hold wrapping paper, then select those wrappings with potential for reuse next year. Most gift boxes can be flattened and stored away for extended use again and again.
- Christmas cards can become next season's colorful gift tags.
- If you received a new microwave, toaster, clock radio, toy, or coat, then consider giving away your old appliances, toys, games, or clothing to a local charity or thrift store.
- Drop off extra packaging materials at local private mailing centers, whose phone numbers can usually be found in the Yellow Pages Directory.
- Finally, don't forget to save all reusable ribbons, bows, and other package decorations for future reuse opportunities.
And remember, donating old TVs, computers, clothes, and other items extends their useful service lives and keeps landfills free of unnecessary waste.
4. Recycle Christmas trees.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, more than 33 million real Christmas trees are sold nationwide every year. If you bought a live Christmas tree, be sure to plant it or donate it to a local school or nursing home to plant on their grounds. If you bought a cut tree, remove all decorations including tinsel and lights before recycling. Check your local paper for instructions on recycling options and the dates for pickup or drop-off. City and county Christmas tree recycling programs are also advertised on the radio.
EPA Reports a Sharp Drop in Acid Rain-Forming Emissions
2006 marks the 12th year of what is widely hailed as one of the most successful environmental programs in U.S. history.
In 2006, annual SO2 emissions from acid rain program electric power generation sources fell sharply, with reductions of 830,000 tons from 2005 levels and an overall reduction of 40% from 1990 levels. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were down by more than 3 million tons since 1990 and had decreased to nearly half the level anticipated without the Acid Rain Program. These reductions have led to a significant decrease in acid deposition, resulting in improved water quality in U.S. lakes and streams. Reduced formation of fine particles, improved air quality, and human health-related benefits are all results from the reduction of these emissions.
Since 1995, the market-based cap-and-trade program has significantly reduced acid deposition in the United States by decreasing SO2 and NOx emissions. The program's rigorous emissions monitoring and allowance tracking has resulted in nearly 100% compliance with the program.
The Acid Rain and Related Programs Progress Report includes emissions, allowance market and compliance data, status and trends in acid deposition, air quality and ecological effects, and information on implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which will further reduce SO2 and NOx emissions by about 70% and 60% respectively from 2003 levels.
Whether you're watching online or listening on your MP3 player, Green Scene podcasts are a way to explore environmental issues with EPA's top experts. Through EPA's latest downloadable tool, agency officials discuss how EPA is helping protect our nation's environment while providing the public with useful tips and information on how they can make a difference in their communities. The discussions will take place biweekly and run roughly five minutes in length.
The agency's first podcast features Dr. George Gray, the agency's chief researcher, talking about America Recycles Day.
EPA Enforcement in 2007 Nets $10.6 Billion on Environmental Controls and Cleanup
The EPA’s enforcement program achieved historic results to protect the nation's air, water, and land in fiscal year 2007. Industries, government agencies, and other regulated entities agreed to spend a record $10.6 billion in pollution controls and environmental projects, exceeding the previous record of $10.2 billion set in 2005.
"EPA believes in firm and fair enforcement, and our results bear that out," said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The EPA cop is on the beat."
Over the last five years, EPA's enforcement program has sustained a steady track record of pollution reductions and commitments from regulated entities to install pollution controls. Since 2003, EPA's enforcement activities have required companies to invest more than $33 billion in pollution control equipment to achieve pollution reductions of nearly 4.5 billion pounds.
In fiscal year 2007, EPA's civil and criminal enforcement actions produced commitments to reduce pollutants by 890 million pounds. Nearly 70% of these reductions were achieved by addressing high-priority air and water pollution challenges. Air priority efforts achieved commitments to reduce 427 million pounds of pollutants, while water priority efforts achieved commitments to reduce 178 million pounds.
Enforcement actions taken in FY 2007 will produce significant health benefits. EPA's 12 largest stationary source air enforcement cases will result in a reduction of more than 500 million pounds of harmful air pollutants, with annual human health benefits estimated at $3.8 billion. These health benefits include reducing approximately 500 premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease, 50,000 fewer days of missed work or school, and 1,000 fewer hospital visits due to asthma and heart failure every year when fully implemented. These actions will reduce harmful air emissions of 308 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, 187 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 11 million pounds of particulate matter annually.
During storms, overflows from inadequate combined sewers and sanitary sewers can discharge untreated sewage and industrial wastewaters into rivers, lakes, oceans, and other waterways. Enforcement actions taken in FY 2007 led to investments of $3.6 billion in pollution controls to remove 45 million pounds of pollutants in discharges from overflows of combined sewers and sanitary sewers. These investments are more than three times greater than those obtained in 2006.
As a result of Superfund enforcement and other remediation agreements, responsible parties agreed to invest $688 million last year to clean up contamination. The parties agreed to clean up a record-setting 79 million cubic yards of contaminated soil or enough to cover more than 12,000 football fields with three feet of dirt. In addition, polluters agreed to clean up 1.4 billion cubic yards of contaminated water, which is enough to fill more than 425,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
EPA continues to seek out and take action to address environmental crimes. In FY 2007, the criminal enforcement program opened 10% more environmental crimes cases than in 2006. Criminal fines and restitution also increased from the previous year by 46%, totaling $63 million. Defendants who pleaded guilty or were found guilty of environmental crimes were ordered by courts to spend $135 million on environmental projects, an increase of 350%.
During FY 2007, EPA reached a record high of 3 million regulated entities through compliance assistance activities to improve environmental management practices and help prevent pollution. EPA has 15 Web-based assistance centers that provide information on environmental regulations and compliance issues for certain industries and groups, such as tribes, construction, health care, and auto recyclers.
Utility Energy-Efficiency Vision Can Save Billions of Dollars While Fighting Climate Change
More than 60 energy, environmental, and other organizations have collaborated on a new report that could save Americans more than $500 billion in energy costs over 25 years and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 90 million vehicles. This report, the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency Vision for 2025, provides a framework for states, utilities, and other stakeholders to consider when seeking policies and programs to achieve all cost-effective energy efficiency measures.
"Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility—and today I'm pleased to see states, utilities, and energy customers taking this motto to heart," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By committing to conservation, Americans are making the vision for an energy-efficient future a reality today."
"Opportunities to increase and maximize energy efficiency in our homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities are both enormous and quantifiable and are a key component of the president's robust energy initiatives," said Kevin Kolevar, DOE assistant secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. "The national action plan recognizes the role of prioritizing energy efficiency through incentive-based programs and policies, which can reduce energy use, benefit our environment, and add to a company's bottom line."
The action plan, launched in 2006, is facilitated by the EPA and the Department of Energy. The plan provides five recommendations for helping states and utilities overcome policy, regulatory, and other barriers that limit investment in energy efficiency even when investment in more efficient homes, buildings, and industries would cost less than new supply and would lead to overall lower energy bills. Along with the vision for 2025, the Action Plan Leadership Group released a number of 'how-to' resources to help parties meet energy-efficiency commitments and announced new commitments under the action plan from more than 30 organizations.
The action plan is advancing the dialogue on removing barriers to energy efficiency as a resource to serve electricity customers and promoting policy and program best practices among gas and electric utilities, their regulators, and partner organizations. Nearly 120 organizations have already taken action over the past year to make the action plan a reality. These commitments to energy efficiency from 42 utility commissions and state and local agencies, 34 utilities, 9 large-end-users, and nearly 40 other organizations have helped remove barriers to energy efficiency by establishing and supporting new energy-efficiency programs, collaborating and the state and local levels, exploring policies to align utility incentives with cost-effective energy efficiency, educating stakeholders, and meeting aggressive energy savings goals.
The action plan was developed by a leadership group of more than 60 organizations. The leadership group includes 30 electric and gas utilities, 17 state agencies, and 12 other organizations, with 24 organizations observing the work of the leadership group.
Collaboration Will Further Speed EPA Program’s Efforts to Prioritize Chemicals
Using approaches first developed in the pharmaceutical industry, the three-phased ToxCast™ Program will quickly and cost-effectively provide information on the potential impact of chemicals on the body’s systems such as the heart, lungs, brain, or reproductive organs. The science-based information will enable EPA to prioritize chemicals for more detailed and expensive toxicological evaluations and make the use of animals in testing more efficient and effective.
Guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations, The Hamner will be looking at a subset of the initial 320 chemicals being examined in ToxCast™ using a complementary system of in-vitro assays. The Hamner will be sharing expertise with EPA to help build a better understanding of the relevance of the in-vitro results by using mathematical models to predict the exposures that would result in similar effects in whole animals.
“This collaboration, across two world-class research organizations, will move us toward understanding these potentially harmful chemicals faster,” said Dr. Robert Kavlock, NCCT director. “While The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences is the first external group to join ToxCast™ under a Memorandum of Understanding, we welcome other partners to help accelerate the process toward ultimately improving the protection of public health and the environment.”
ToxCast™ is a key prototype for the future of environmental health protection as envisioned in the recent report of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century". In the two years since the ToxCast™ Program’s inception, an Interagency Agreement has been established with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), nine contracts have been awarded to companies to provide chemical management and various high throughput-screening assays, and in August 2007 the list of chemicals (mainly pesticides and other select chemicals) to be tested under phase one’s proof-of-concept stage was announced. NCCT is currently profiling the preliminary responses of those chemicals. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has supported a project proposal developed jointly by the NCCT and EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) to promote international cooperation and research on the application of new molecular-based approaches for the prioritization and screening of environmental chemicals for potential toxicity. These international research partnerships will be built under OECD’s Molecular Screening Initiative.
Inspections and Environmental Enforcement Cuts Pollution in New England by Nearly 13.7 Million Pounds
EPA’s program to enforce environmental laws in the six New England states yielded significant pollution reduction and compliance assurance last year. In fact, EPA’s efforts between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007, slashed pollution in New England by 13.68 million pounds—the second highest reduction of pollution in the past five years.
"EPA’s commitment to enforcing our nation’s environmental laws means that we have better protection of our environment and public health in New England," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Protecting the environment is everybody’s responsibility, and companies or individuals who disregard laws to protect our air, land, and water should know that EPA continues to vigorously enforce our nation’s laws for a cleaner, healthier America.”
As a result of EPA’s regional environmental enforcement last year, violators will pay more than $148 million in combined penalties and actions to correct violations. Further, in New England an additional $1.1 million is being committed in “supplemental environmental projects”—additional efforts with environmental benefits to the community at large, which are sometimes included in a settlement for violations.
EPA’s enforcement actions last year will produce significant health and environmental benefits in New England. For example, under the Superfund enforcement program, nearly 70 million cubic yards of water will be cleaned in Massachusetts—enough to fill approximately 21,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Environmental inspections by EPA set record levels for the second consecutive year in New England states, with our field presence at its highest level in the last 10 years. EPA conducted more than 1,100 on-site inspections and more than 600 off-site inspections. By deploying inspectors to New England facilities to evaluate compliance with regulations to ensure clean air and water and the proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials, EPA is on the front line of protecting people’s health and environment.
EPA’s work in New England last year resulted in 25 referrals to the U.S. Dept. of Justice for civil judicial actions. Highlights of EPA’s New England enforcement efforts include:
- Criminal enforcement of Clean Water Act violations by Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. of Windsor Locks, Conn., resulting in $12 million in fines and environmental projects.
- Lead-paint notification settlement with Renaissance Properties in New Haven, Conn., results in 174 units becoming lead-safe at a cost of more than $400,000.
- Air emission compliance at a former pulp and paper mill in Old Town, Maine, opens door to possible ethanol production.
- Ceasing unlawful discharge of manure and contaminated wastewater into nearby waters by Country Acres dairy farm in Dixmont, Maine.
- Diesel idling reduced at Peter Pan bus facilities in Boston and Springfield, Mass.
- Expedited action to address unsafe storage and handling of hazardous materials at Clean Harbors facility in Braintree, Mass.
- Reducing combined sewer overflows into the Merrimack River from the Greater Lawrence Sanitary Sewer District in Mass.
- W.R. Grace to complete $18 million of cleanup work at Superfund site in Acton, Mass. including 28 million cubic yards of contaminated groundwater.
- Measures to prevent oil spills, such as $157,500 settlement with CN Brown Co. at facilities in N.H. and Maine.
- Settlement with Town of Jaffrey, N.H., will result in $10.5 million upgrade to the municipal waste water treatment plant, protecting the Contoocook River.
- Intensive focus to reduce sanitary sewer overflows in Rhode Island communities.
- Reducing emissions of hazardous chemicals from Rhode Island jewelry artisans.
- Hazardous waste settlement at VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., to result in comprehensive, region-wide waste tracking system at VA medical centers.
Nationally, this report reflects a sustained five-year record of pollution reduction. Since 2003, EPA’s enforcement activities have required companies to invest more than $33 billion in pollution control equipment to achieve pollution reductions of nearly 4.5 billion pounds.
For the first time, this year EPA has also compiled detailed Web-based data regarding the previous year’s enforcement and pollution prevention results sorted on a state-by-state basis.
Philadelphia-Area Gas Stations Settle Clean Air Cases With EPA
The EPA has announced that 13 gas stations across the Delaware Valley have agreed to pay civil penalties and come into compliance with Clean Air Act regulations. These stations are in Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, and West Chester, Pa.
EPA cited the stations for a variety of alleged violations that could release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which lead to formation of ground-level ozone pollutants, into the air as customers fill up their gas tanks and when gasoline is delivered to the stations.
The alleged violations include failure to use federally approved pump nozzles that recover gasoline vapors, failure to repair damaged or defective pump nozzles, failure to remove the overflow of gasoline spilled while delivering it to storage tanks, failure to repair damaged storage system caps and piping, failure to provide adequate training and instructions to the operators of the gasoline-dispensing facilities, failure to maintain records of system operation and failure to have signs posted on how to use the systems with a telephone number to call if there is a problem.
These alleged violations were found during EPA inspections from Nov.13 to Nov. 27, 2006. The penalties range from $1,250 to $250 per station. The Philadelphia-five county region is the third area in which EPA's mid-Atlantic regional office has undertaken inspections and enforcement actions at gas stations for ground-level ozone requirements. The other areas are in Washington, D.C., and Allegheny County, Pa., where, like the Philadelphia region, air quality does not meet allowable limits for ozone.
EPA Region 7 Announces Rollout of Environmental Manual for Ethanol Facilities
Region 7 Administrator John B. Askew said, "We are taking steps to provide useful tools to help ethanol facilities comply with environmental regulations. With the accelerated growth in the renewable fuels industry, EPA wants to work with the ethanol industry to ensure that facilities are in compliance with rules that protect public health and the environment. EPA is addressing our nation's growing energy demand in a way that supports our goals for a clean environment, supports farmers and rural America, and supports greater energy security."
The Midwestern states are active on America's renewable fuels frontier. Through the long-term efforts of the agricultural and ethanol community, rural residents are seeing an ever-increasing growth in the construction of ethanol plans and the supporting infrastructure.
The manual serves as a road map of federal environmental information, such as requirements that apply to air, water, hazardous waste, and accident prevention and release reporting. A contact directory of key federal and state officials is included in the manual. EPA Region 7 staff members are available to answer questions about the applicability of environmental requirements to renewable fuel facilities. (See Appendix A of the manual.)
An EPA Region 7 biofuels team of engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists developed this manual after seeking input from a variety of stakeholders.
Renewable fuels in general, and ethanol in particular, have been important in our nation's transportation fuel supply for many years. Ethanol made from corn is the most common renewable fuel used by motor vehicles in the United States. More than 5 billion gallons were blended with gasoline in 2006.
EPA's goal is to work with this industry to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.
Record $2 Billion to Be Spent on Environmental Controls and Cleanup in the Southeast
EPA’s Region 4 enforcement program will reduce, treat, or eliminate 167 million pounds of pollution in the Southeast as a result of agreements and concluded enforcement actions taken in fiscal year 2007. This includes reducing harmful air emissions (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide) and significant volumes of untreated sewage, as well as cleaning more than 1.9 million cubic yards of contaminated soil. The estimated value of corrective action or cleanup required by EPA Region 4 enforcement agreements will total more than $2 billion, the highest total ever achieved by Region 4.
“Citizens of the Southeast will breathe healthier air and have cleaner water and better-protected land as a result of EPA Region 4’s enforcement and compliance assurance efforts,” said Jimmy Palmer, Regional Administrator. “I am proud of the work that EPA Region 4 personnel are doing in partnership with our states and tribal nations to ensure that compliance with our environmental laws is achieved.”
Nationally in FY 2007, EPA’s civil and criminal enforcement actions produced commitments to reduce pollutants by 890 million pounds. Nearly 70% of these reductions were achieved by addressing high-priority air and water pollution challenges. EPA's enforcement program achieved historic results to protect the nation’s air, water, and land in FY 2007. Industries, government agencies, and other regulated entities agreed to spend a record $10.6 billion in pollution controls and environmental projects, exceeding the previous record of $10.2 billion set in 2005.
Two enforcement actions in Kentucky contributed substantially to the overall amount of pollutant reductions achieved this fiscal year in the Southeast. The settlement of a Clean Air Act case with East Kentucky Power Cooperative will result in the reduction of 124 million pounds of harmful air emissions. A consent decree finalized with Winchester Municipal Utilities and the City of Winchester will require upgrades and changes to the city’s sanitary sewer system that will reduce the unauthorized discharge of more than 1.6 million pounds of pollutants into U.S. waters.
An agreement reached between the Department of Justice and EPA with Valero Energy Corporation provides for a $4.25 million penalty and $232 million in new and upgraded pollution controls at refineries in Tennessee, Ohio, and Texas. In addition to new pollution controls at the Memphis refinery, which will result in substantial reductions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, Memphis will receive a portion of the civil penalty.
In support of EPA’s National Strategy to address storm water violations due to wet weather events, EPA Region 4 issued 27 administrative actions to developers and homebuilders in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee for failure to obtain or follow discharge permit conditions. These actions are estimated to reduce the release of 31.9 million pounds of pollutants.
During storms, overflows from inadequate combined sewers and sanitary sewers can discharge untreated sewage and industrial wastewaters into rivers, lakes, oceans, and other waterways. A Clean Water Act Administrative Order and Consent Agreement between EPA and the City of Charlotte, N.C., will require Charlotte to implement measures to eliminate sewage overflows and perform other actions to restore and protect the McDowell Creek Watershed. The estimated cost of these measures is $196 million, with reductions of more than 139,000 pounds of pollution. Enforcement actions taken throughout the country in FY 2007 led to investments of $3.6 billion in pollution controls to remove 45 million pounds of pollutants in discharges from overflows of combined sewers and sanitary sewers.
An Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Removal Action at the LWD, Inc. Superfund Site in Calvert City, Ky., will provide for the continued removal and treatment of more than 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated debris and hazardous wastes. The work is estimated to cost approximately $12 million and will include the reimbursement of cleanup work previously performed by EPA.
More than 42 million cubic yards of contaminated groundwater and 193,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be addressed at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, S.C., as a result of negotiations by EPA Region 4. In Georgia, consent decrees with Stoller Chemical Company and Pelham Phosphate Company in Pelham will provide for the reimbursement of $10.1 million in costs EPA incurred through cleanup actions. The settlements in Georgia are the last in a series of settlements for this site, resulting in EPA's recovery of $14.1 million. Nationally, as a result of Superfund enforcement and other remediation agreements, responsible parties agreed to invest $688 million last year to clean up contamination.
EPA continues to seek out and take action to address environmental crimes. In FY 2007, the criminal enforcement program opened 10% more environmental crimes cases than in 2006. Criminal fines and restitution also increased by 46% from the previous year, totaling $63 million.
Norfolk Southern to Pay $7.35 Million to Restore McKean, Cameron County Waterways
Waterways and wetlands in McKean and Cameron counties that were damaged in a June 2006 lye spill will benefit from a landmark settlement between the commonwealth, Norfolk Southern Corp., and Norfolk Southern Railway Company.
“We negotiated long and hard to reach this point, keeping in mind the environmental and economic injuries that this region suffered as a result of the spill,” DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said in announcing the agreement. “This settlement will help heal the ecosystem and provide the needed resources for nearby communities.”
A large part of the $7.35 million settlement—approximately $6.76 million—will go to community organizations or be used by the commonwealth to support environmental restoration work and fund other important community improvement projects. The projects will help re-establish the natural resources of Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, McKean, and Potter counties so residents can again enjoy the recreational and sporting opportunities that were available before the spill.
Under the agreement, DEP’s nearly $3.2 million share will go directly to the Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council Inc. to support projects in the Sinnemahoning Portage Creek Watershed and the Driftwood Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed.
Within the council, a stakeholders committee consisting of local public representatives, county officials, and state agency delegates will evaluate potential environmental projects for future funding. The stakeholder committee will meet in January to finish identifying the projects that may qualify for endowment support.
Norfolk Southern will pay an additional $500,000 to DEP to cover the costs of responding to the June 30, 2006, train derailment that released 42,000 gallons of lye, which is also known as liquid sodium hydroxide or caustic soda. DEP continues to address the consequences of the spill. The agreement also provides $3.68 million to the Fish and Boat Commission.
The payments will resolve Norfolk Southern’s civil liability at the site for DEP, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Each state agency is a signatory to the settlement.
The civil liability settlement is separate from the criminal charges filed against Norfolk Southern and the derailed train’s conductor by the McKean County district attorney and the Pennsylvania attorney general.
DEP will submit a public notice regarding the universal civil settlement for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Once published, a 60-day public comment period will follow and then DEP will prepare a response document.
Once the response document is prepared, the final agreement will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, beginning a 30-day period for appeals. The final settlement agreement will go into effect when the appeal period expires or, if an appeal is filed, when the appeal is resolved.
The proposed settlement agreement is available for review at the DEP Northwest Regional Office, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville, and at the Cameron County Conservation District Office, 20 East Fifth St., Room 105, Emporium.
Written comments can be submitted to Mr. Ricardo F. Gilson, regional manager, Department of Environmental Protection, Water Management, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville, PA 16335. Gilson can be reached at 814-332-6942 for additional information.
Norfolk Southern has completed cleanup at the site but it is obligated to continue monitoring the restoration efforts under the terms of a May 2007 agreement. The railroad company is to submit reports to DEP twice a year for the first two years after construction and annually for the next three years.
The first report is due within 60 days of an April 2008 site inspection, with the final report due within 60 days of a September 2013 inspection.
The June 2006 spill occurred near Gardeau, Norwich Township, McKean County, and wiped out fish and aquatic life in Big Fill Hollow and an 11-mile segment of Sinnemahoning-Portage Creek, which is designated as an exceptional value and wild trout stream. It also affected the fisheries in the Driftwood Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek.
The effects of the spill were observed as far as 30 miles downstream from the derailment site, with much of the impact in Cameron County.
Staff from DEP’s northwest regional office conducted fish surveys on the Sinnemahoning-Portage Creek in early October and found that, except for trout, fish populations have substantially rebounded below the spill site.
The affected area is in the center of Pennsylvania Wilds—a portion of north central Pennsylvania renowned for its spectacular scenery and wildlife.
Cincinnati Area Home Builder to Pay $80,000 Penalty
Dixon Builders and its sister companies have agreed to pay an $80,000 settlement after the company violated Ohio's water pollution laws that govern soil excavation and require installation of effective erosion and sediment control practices.
Ohio EPA inspections between 2003 and 2005 found that the company developed the following sites without maintaining adequate storm water controls:
- Fairways at Twin Run, a 56-acre site on the north side of Beissinger Road in Hamilton (Butler County)
- Fairfield Ridge, a 140-acre site located at the north side of Princeton Road in Fairfield Township (Butler County)
- Fairfield Falls, a 51-acre site located at the west side of Liberty-Fairfield Road in Fairfield Township (Butler County)
- Deerfield Point, a 29-acre site located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Deerfield Roads and Woodville Pike in Miami Township (Clermont County)
Like most waterways throughout Ohio, sediment is a primary cause for concern in Butler and Clermont counties. Streams need a certain amount of new matter to provide nutrients to the tiny organisms that feed larger bugs and fish. But large amounts of sediment can harm a stream's ecosystem.
Rain and snow melt cause soil to run off of construction areas and blanket Ohio's river beds. This layer can smother the tiny creatures at the bottom of the food chain as well as the eggs of fish and other organisms. Left to face starvation, species will abandon areas where the sediment impact is significant. This is known as nonpoint pollution.
Anyone who disturbs more than one acre of land must obtain and operate under the guidelines of a storm water management plan. Dixon Builders, Fairways at Twin Run, Fairfield Ridge, Fairfield falls, and Deerfield Point obtained permit coverage ahead of time, but did not abide by the requirements or exercise proper controls. The company failed to maintain the controls that they did install. Because of this, mud was swept into unnamed tributaries of Four Mile Creek, the Great Miami River, and O'Bannon Creek. This type of activity can have subsequent affects on the major receiving streams.
Of the $80,000 penalty, $64,000 will go to help fund surface water pollution programs and $16,000 to Ohio EPA's Clean Diesel School Bus program.
Anyone who wants to fill streams, lakes, or wetlands needs to receive a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and a water quality certification from Ohio EPA.
Anyone who disturbs more than one acre of soil as part of a construction project must receive coverage under a general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. More information is available by calling the Agency's storm water hotline at 614-644-5867
Washington Toxics Cleanup Program Provides Tool to Search for Sites
You can find the Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Sites report on Ecology's website, through the Toxics Cleanup Program homepage. The report contains a summary of information available about sites that are undergoing or waiting for cleanup and sites that are awaiting further investigation.
Just click on the list and follow the easy instructions to conduct a search.
The above-listed link also leads to a variety of other searchable lists, including summaries of the Hazardous Sites List and underground storage tanks sites. Also available is a catalog of oversight decision documents, such as consent decrees and enforcement orders.
The Toxics Cleanup Program also offers an easy-to-use resource for the public and business owners who suspect or find hazardous waste on their property.
EPA Issues Performance Report
EPA released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2007. Among the report's FY 2007 performance highlights:
Through EPA's Energy Star program, consumers saved more than $14 billion on their energy bills by purchasing more than 300 million energy-saving labeled products, constructing almost 200,000 Energy Star new homes, tracking and improving the energy use of over 30,000 commercial buildings, and reducing energy use at hundreds of industrial facilities.
The 12 most significant enforcement actions EPA took in FY 2007 will result in an estimated 507 million pounds of reduced, treated, or eliminated sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM). An estimated $3.8 billion human health benefits from emissions reductions will result in fewer premature deaths, non-fatal heart attacks, and reduced incidence of bronchitis and asthma attacks. Additionally, the report listed the following findings:
- EPA exceeded its Superfund targets by controlling unacceptable human exposures from site contamination for current land and/or groundwater use conditions at an additional 13 sites and by controlling the spread of contaminated groundwater at 19 additional sites.
- Under EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, permits implementing standards for industrial sources, municipal treatment plants, and storm water prevented discharge of 37 billion pounds of pollutants into waterways.
- To support homeland security, EPA increased the number of guidelines for acute chemical exposure to 218, providing valuable short-term exposure limits applicable to a wide range of extremely hazardous substances. This information is important for local first responders in dealing with accidental and deliberate releases of hazardous chemicals and represents an additional 33 chemicals for which exposure guidelines have been developed.
- Working through its Federal Electronics Challenge Program—a voluntary partnership of 18 federal agencies committed to the environmentally sound acquisition, use, and disposal of electronic products—in FY 2006, EPA encouraged the decrease in federal use of hazardous materials by at least 2.8 million pounds, the conservation of 452 billion BTUs of energy, and the savings of $11.4 million (data substantially finalized in FY 2007).
The report, which was delivered to President Bush and Congress on Nov. 15, also provides a snapshot of the agency's financial position. For the eighth year in a row, EPA received a clean opinion on its financial statements. The report meets the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and other management-related statutes. The 1993 GPRA requires federal agencies to report to Congress annually on the results of their activities during the fiscal year.
A brief summary of the Agency's FY 2007 performance and financial highlights will be available in February 2008 through EPA's National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) at 1-800-490-9198 or by ordering
Altuglas Gets Top Environmental Tanking
Voluntary environmental improvement efforts by a Louisville, Ky., chemical plant have gained the facility the highest ranking from KY EXCEL, an environmental leadership program administered by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP).
Altuglas International, a division of Arkema, Inc., manufactures acrylic resins widely used in cars and other products. Altuglas recently moved from partner to master level in KY EXCEL. Participants in KY EXCEL commit to environmental protection and improvement measures that go beyond what is required by law.
“The KY EXCEL program was established to recognize and encourage the positive efforts of corporate and private citizens who are striving to enhance Kentucky’s environment,” said Aaron Keatley, director of the Division of Compliance Assistance in DEP. “Altuglas International is to be commended for its dedication to increasing its efforts, above and beyond the industry’s environmental requirements, to create a healthier and safer Kentucky. We are pleased to welcome Altuglas to the master level of KY EXCEL.”
Altuglas joined KY EXCEL as a partner member. After achieving its initial goals, including ISO certification of its Environmental Management Program, Altuglas committed itself to attaining master level by undertaking four voluntary projects. “KY EXCEL is more than another program following the crowd in a world in which being ‘green’ is the fashionable trend,” said Cheryl Farr, the environmental manager for Altuglas. “Instead, it is the program that sets the trend by demanding tangible results and a positive impact on the environment.”
The four environmental projects are:
- The Science Teacher Program—Elementary and middle school teachers are provided with professionally developed, grade-specific, hands-on science kits to assist them in teaching science. The program also educates the teachers in environmental issues facing the chemical industry in Louisville.
- The All Care Community Center—Located near the plant, the center will offer after-school and summer programs to area children and will teach them environmental stewardship through various projects.
- Arbor Day celebration—Altuglas will support the replanting of trees and planting of new trees through a school education program.
- Tox-Away Day—This event will provide proper disposal of household items containing hazardous or toxic chemicals. These include computer equipment, oil and latex paints, motor oil and filters, and automobile and household batteries. Residents will be able to bring these to the Altuglas parking lot. The free service will be available to households only.
The Altuglas International manufacturing plant in Louisville began making Plexiglas® acrylics (or molding resin) in 1968. The resin is used in tail light lenses, signs, lighting, dashboard panels, medical equipment, and many other common products.
Originally part of the Rohm and Haas Co., Altuglas has undergone several changes of name and ownership, but it has retained much of the staff that has produced a lengthy record of successful operations.
Altuglas has received ISO 9002 quality and ISO 14001 environmental certifications. The company adheres to the principles of the chemical industry’s voluntary Responsible Care codes, which provide guidelines for process safety, product stewardship, community awareness, and emergency response. Altuglas employees continually work to meet and exceed local and national environmental regulations.
Launched in 2006, KY EXCEL is a voluntary program open to any individual, organization, community, or business to improve and protect Kentucky’s environment beyond what is required by state law and regulation.
$83,000 Penalty for Operating Spray Paint Operation Without Title V Permit
A complex air pollution enforcement case has ended with a consent order in Putnam County Common Pleas Court between Ohio EPA and the Glarry Company of Pandora and owner Gary C. Clymer of Columbus Grove (Putnam County). The company will pay an $83,000 penalty. The case resolves multiple air pollution violations against the former company and its owner. The company manufactured industrial storage rack and shelving
The major violations against the company included failing to obtain a permit to modify a metal parts conveyor paint line or permits to operate the paint line and a paint booth; failing to apply for a federal permit for large air pollution sources, known as a Title V permit, since at least February 1996 to July 2000; operating a Title V source without a permit or filing a timely permit application from October 1996 to July 2000; emitting volatile organic compounds at more than three pounds per gallon of coating from the paint line from at least 1994 to July 2000; and failing to maintain daily records for each paint operation and failing to submit fee emission reports from at least June 1994 to July 2000.
The consent order also requires the company to comply with applicable environmental laws, including first applying for permits to install and operate any air contaminant sauce. A portion of the penalty, $16,600, will be paid to Ohio EPA's Clean Diesel School Bus Fund, which retrofits school buses with pollution control equipment to reduce particulate emissions from their diesel engines.
The enforcement case was divided into two parts. This case covered violations that occurred prior to July 2000. Clymer Acquisition purchased the facility in July 2000. A case against Clymer Acquisition, also known as Kingway Inca Clymer Material Handling, was resolved in a December 2006 consent order. The company paid a $100,500 penalty for violations that occurred from July 2000 to December 2006.
Court Orders Administration to Set Stronger Standards That Cut Global Warming
Last week, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the administration's weak fuel economy standard for sport-utility vehicles and other light-duty trucks. The court upbraided the administration for setting zero value on reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming when setting fuel-economy standards. The court also faulted the administration for leaving a gaping loophole that has allowed auto manufacturers to classify passenger cars as trucks subject to weaker fuel economy standards.
David Doniger, policy director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and an attorney on the case, said “This is another court rebuke to the Bush administration's policy of ignoring global warming. The federal government and the automobile industry should have embraced higher fuel economy standards years ago. The U.S. auto industry is having a tough time today because Detroit’s top management spent years hiding from the future. Well, the future is now. We have the technology to do this, and it's time we got started.”
“Better fuel economy makes this country more secure, cuts dangerous global warming pollution, and saves consumers billions of dollars a year. With the price of oil creeping up to $100 a barrel, we need more efficient cars and trucks.
Global Agreement on Mercury Pollution Is Focus of International Meeting
Governments need to accelerate the effort to deliver an international agreement on the poisonous heavy metal mercury, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) last week.
Experts are becoming increasingly concerned that increased burning of coal—naturally contaminated with mercury—is leading to releases to the air in some parts of the world from where it can spread around the globe. The soaring gold price also may be increasing mercury pollution locally and world-wide. The poisonous heavy metal is used to extract gold from ore in many artisanal mining operations, which involve millions of workers and their families.
Steiner, also a UN Under-Secretary General, said scientists have been warning about the dangers to human health, wildlife, and the wider environment for well over a century. "And it is true that many countries have, in recent decades, taken steps to reduce mercury uses and releases and to protect their citizens from exposure to this toxic heavy metal," he added. "However, the fact remains that a comprehensive and decisive response to the global challenge of mercury is not in place and this needs to be urgently addressed.”
Mercury is linked with a wide range of health effects including irreversible damage to the human nervous system, including the brain, and scientists have concluded there is no safe limit when it comes to mercury exposure. Every person alive today—some 6.5 billion people—is thought to have at least trace levels of the heavy metal in their tissues.
Governments and experts are meeting in Bangkok under the auspices of the UNEP's Chemicals Branch to discuss how best to reduce environmental sources of mercury with a range of options on the table from voluntary measures and initiatives up to legally binding treaties.
Their report will be presented to an environment ministers meeting in February in Monaco during UNEP's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum. UNEP is urging governments, working with industry and civil society, to begin setting "clear and ambitious targets" to get global mercury levels down and to set the stage for mercury-free products and processes world-wide. Such targets might include:
- An agreement to phase out mercury from products and processes, such as in the manufacture of medical equipment and in chlorine factories, with an aim of realizing mercury-free products by 2020
- Reductions in emissions from coal-fired power stations with the additional benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and improved local air quality
- Support for initiatives like those of the UN Industrial and Development Organization, which has a goal to cut by 50% the use of mercury in artisanal mining by 2017 en route to a total phase-out
UNEP's flagship report—the Global Environment Outlook-4—released last month states that that coal burning and waste incineration account for about 70% of the total quantified emissions of mercury.
"As combustion of fossil fuels is increasing, mercury emissions can be expected to increase, in the absence of control technologies or prevention," says the GEO-4, the peer-reviewed work of more than 1,000 scientists and experts.
Scientists are also testing suggestions that climate change may be triggering releases of new, as well as the re-activation of old, deposits of mercury as a result of rising lake temperatures, erosion, and the accelerated melting of permafrost, ice sheets, and icebergs at the poles.
From here the mercury—in form known as methymercury—can enter the global food chain via marine mammals such as whales and seals and internationally caught and traded fish such as swordfish, shark, marlin, mackerel, walleye, sea bass, and tuna.
The Bangkok "Open-Ended Working Group" meeting—which will also be attended by industry and civil society groups—is expected to be followed up by a second one in late 2008.
Arstisanal and small-scale gold mining uses mercury to collect gold from the ore. The mercury/gold amalgam is then burnt to release the mercury and leave molten gold. If done without any protective equipment or way of collecting the mercury, it can lead to local and widespread poisoning of the environment, workers, and their families. This industry is expanding due to the rising price of gold and involves an estimated 10 to 15 million miners worldwide, including 4.5 million women and 1 million children.
Many mercury-containing devices are produced using methods that result in major releases of mercury to the environment.
Trivia Question of the Week
Which of the following can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol?
a. Plant starches and sugars
b. French fries
c. Corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus
d. All of the above