EPA issued a guidance memorandum withdrawing the “once in always in” policy for the classification of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. With the new guidance, sources of hazardous air pollutants previously classified as “major sources” may be reclassified as area sources when the facility limits its potential to emit below major source thresholds.
“This guidance is based on a plain language reading of the statute that is in line with EPA’s guidance for other provisions of the Clean Air Act,” said Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “It will reduce regulatory burden for industries and the states, while continuing to ensure stringent and effective controls on hazardous air pollutants.”
The Clean Air Act defines a “major source” as a one that emits, or has the potential to emit, 10 tons per year of any hazardous air pollutant, or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of hazardous air pollutants. Sources with emissions below this threshold are classified as “area sources.” Different control standards apply to the source depending on whether or not it is classified as a “major source” or an “area source.”
In a 1995 memo, EPA established a “once in always in” policy that determined that any facility subject to major source standards would always remain subject to those standards, even if production processes changed or controls were implemented that eliminated or permanently reduced that facility’s potential to emit hazardous air pollutants.
The recent memo states that the EPA had no statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to place a time limit on when a facility may be determined to be an area source, and that a plain language reading of the Act must allow facilities to be reclassified as area sources once their potential to emit hazardous air pollutants falls below the levels that define major sources.
EPA said that it will soon publish a Federal Register notice to take comment on adding regulatory text that will reflect EPA’s reading of the statute as discussed in this memorandum.
John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “this is among the most dangerous actions that the Trump EPA has taken yet against public health. Rolling back longstanding protections to allow the greatest increase in hazardous air pollutants in our nation’s history is unconscionable. This move drastically weakens protective limits on air pollutants like arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxins that cause cancer, brain damage, infertility, developmental problems and even death. And those harmed most would be nearby communities already suffering a legacy of pollution. NRDC will fight this terrible decision to unleash toxic pollutants with every available tool.”
TSCA Reset Webcast
If your company manufactured or imported chemicals between June 21, 2006 and June 21, 2016, the EPA’s TSCA Inventory reset rule requires you to identify those substances as active on EPA central data exchange (CDX) by February 8, 2018.
If you process or use chemicals, you may identify them as active on the TSCA Inventory October 6, 2018. After October 6, 2018, chemicals which have not been identified as active on the TSCA Inventory may not, unless exempted, be imported, manufactured, processed, or used in commerce, in the United States.
In this webcast, you will learn:
- How the TSCA Inventory applies to the chemicals you use, manufacture, or import
- How the TSCA Reset rule applies to your operations
- Which chemicals are regulated, and which are exempt
- How to check the status of your chemicals
- How to use EPA’s CDX to report your chemical as active
- How to report your chemicals if you miss the deadline
- Impact on Safety Data Sheets
Two sessions of this interactive, instructor-led webcast will be offered on January 30, 2018 and February 1, 2018 from 1:00-4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Tampa Hazardous Waste and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Tampa, FL, on February 5-8 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Nashville Hazardous Waste and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Nashville, TN, on February 20-22 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Kansas City Hazardous Waste and DOT Training
Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Kansas City, MO, on February 20-22 and save $100 or receive an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet with electronic versions of both handbooks. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.
Phosphorus Pollution Increasing in Freshwater Bodies
Man-made phosphorus pollution is reaching dangerously high levels in freshwater basins around the world, according to new research. A new study published in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, estimated the global amount of phosphorus from human activities that entered Earth’s freshwater bodies from 2002 to 2010.
Phosphorus is a common component of mineral and manure fertilizers because it boosts crop yields. However, a large portion of phosphorus applied as fertilizer is not taken up by plants, and either builds up in the soil or washes into rivers, lakes and coastal seas, according to the study’s authors. The results of the new study show global human activity emitted 1.47 teragrams (1.62 million U.S. tons) of phosphorus per year into the world’s major freshwater basins, four times greater than the weight of the Empire State Building.
The study also assessed whether human activity had surpassed the Earth’s ability to dilute and assimilate excess levels of phosphorus in freshwater bodies. The authors found phosphorus load exceeded the assimilation capacity of freshwater bodies in 38% of Earth’s land surface, an area housing 90% of the global human population.
“In many areas of the world either there’s not enough water to assimilate the phosphorus or the pollution load is so huge that the water system can’t assimilate everything,” said Mesfin Mekonnen, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and co-author of the new study.
The study’s results indicate freshwater bodies in areas with high water pollution levels are likely to suffer from eutrophication, or an excess level of nutrients, due to high phosphorus levels, said Joep Schyns, a researcher in the field of water management at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, who was not connected to the new study.
“Eutrophication due to phosphorus pollution causes algal blooms, which can lead to the mortality of fish and plants due to lack of oxygen and light,” Schyns said. “It also reduces the use of the water for human purposes such as consumption and swimming.”
The authors of the new study examined agricultural activity to calculate the total amount of man-made phosphorus entering Earth’s surface water from 2002 to 2010. They gathered data on how much fertilizer is applied per crop in each country and estimated domestic and industrial phosphorus production by looking at protein consumption per capita per country.
“Other studies have calculated global phosphorus loads, but we went farther because we broke down the phosphorus load by various categories such as different crops, countries, and economic sectors, which no one has done,” Mekonnen said.
New results show human activity released 1.47 teragrams (1.62 million US tons) of phosphorus into the world’s freshwater bodies each year. China contributed 30% of the freshwater phosphorus load, followed by India at 8% and the US at 7%. The largest contribution to the global Phosphorus load came from domestic sewage at 54%, followed by agriculture at 38% and industry at 8%. The authors found the phosphorus load from agriculture grew by 27% over the study period, from 525 gigagrams (579,000 US tons) in 2002 to 666 gigagrams (734,000 US tons) in 2010.
The study also estimated the water pollution level (WPL) of Earth’s major river basins by comparing the amount of fresh water needed to dilute the excess phosphorus to an allowable concentration compared to the basin’s actual river runoff. If a freshwater basin has a WPL above one, water quality standards are being violated and the basin is receiving more phosphorus pollution than it can assimilate, Mekonnen said.
The results show freshwater basins with a WPL above one cover 38% of Earth’s land surface, excluding Antarctica. These basins often pertain to densely populated areas or regions with intensive agriculture, according to the authors.
The most severely polluted freshwater areas include Aral drainage basin, the Huang-He (Yellow) river in China, the Indus and Ganges rivers in India and the Danube river in Europe. Less-populated regions such as Australia and northern Africa also suffer from high water pollution levels, according to the new study. These regions have smaller phosphorus loads compared to areas like China and Europe, but they have much less water available to accommodate their excess phosphorus, Mekonnen said.
Safety-Kleen Systems Fined $75,575 for Hazardous Waste, Underground Storage Tank Violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc., a Wisconsin-based company, $75,575 for environmental violations found during routine inspections of the company’s licensed hazardous waste treatment storage and disposal facility at 90 Rabbit Road in Salisbury. "MassDEP will strictly enforce the regulations pertaining to the safe and proper management of hazardous waste facilities in order to protect public safety and the environment,” said Eric Worrall, director of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington.
The hazardous waste violations found during the May and June 2017 inspections included: the leak-detection system sump sensor was not installed properly; the spill bucket was not in good operating condition; personnel had not been properly trained; hazardous waste containers were not properly marked as stipulated in the applicable regulations; and, certain records were incomplete or not available when requested. In addition, the underground storage tank spill bucket and tank-top sump had accumulated liquid in them.
After the violations were brought to the attention of Safety-Kleen, the company corrected the physical components and provided MassDEP with documentation demonstrating that equipment repairs had been made, the labelling was corrected and a commitment to training and record-keeping was in place.
Under the terms of the consent order, Safety-Kleen will pay $60,375 of the penalty and $13,200 will be suspended provided there are no further violations over the next year.
$500,000 Fine for Illegal Cesspools in Hawaii
The EPA’s enforcement actions in Hawaii last year resulted in closures of 19 large capacity cesspools (LCC) and over $500,000 in fines.
EPA regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act required closure of all existing LCCs by April 5, 2005. The ban does not apply to individual cesspools connected to single-family homes.
“We will continue working to close all remaining large cesspools,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This enforcement effort will help protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal water resources.”
Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. Groundwater provides 99% of all domestic water in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state. Since EPA banned LCCs in 2005, over 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance.
EPA actions to close prohibited LCCs this past year include:
- Matheson Tri-Gas facility, a commercial gas supply company in Campbell Industrial Park, Kapolei, Oahu closed two LCCs and converted to a septic system. The company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $88,374 and to spend an estimated $50,000 on a supplemental environmental project to close an on-site small-capacity cesspool. Matheson completed its work and converted to a septic system at the end of 2017.
- Maui Varieties Investments, Inc., which owns two Big Island hardware stores and a commercial property, is closing four LCCs at its properties in Naalehu, Kamuela and Hilo and paid a $134,000 penalty.
- Fileminders of Hawaii, LLC, which operated a prohibited cesspool in Kapolei, and Hawaii MMGD, the company’s owner, were assessed a civil penalty of $122,000. In June, the cesspool was closed, and the company installed an individual wastewater system.
- The U.S. Navy paid a civil penalty of $94,200 and closed nine LCCs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Navy had closed six cesspools in 2012 but had failed to close the remaining three in a timely manner. The three remaining cesspools served an estimated 160 people at three separate facilities. The Navy has since closed the non-compliant cesspools.
- The County of Hawaii agreed to close seven large capacity cesspools that serve the Pahala and Naalehu communities. The agreement requires the closure of two LCCs serving the Pahala community, three LCCs serving the Naalehu community, and two LCCs serving the Pahala Elderly Apartments. Combined, the seven cesspools serve about 280 households. The County will replace the cesspools with wastewater treatment systems approved by the Hawaii Department of Health.
- Aloha Petroleum, Ltd. paid a penalty of $57,500 for operation of an LCC at its Aloha Island Mart convenience store and gas station in Captain Cook on the Big Island. EPA found that Aloha Island Mart had operated the illegal LCC until 2014. Aloha Petroleum has since closed the non-compliant cesspool and replaced it with an approved wastewater system.
- Uilani Associates owns and operates the Uilani Plaza, a multi-unit commercial building in Kamuela. The company paid a $6,000 fine and replaced the cesspool with a Hawaii Department of Health approved wastewater system.
First Reclaimed Water Rule Adopted in Washington
Even in rainy Washington, water is a precious commodity. Agriculture, industry and our communities all depend on sufficient, stable supplies of water. As our state’s population and economy grows, finding ways to conserve water is becoming more important. A new rule from the Washington Department of Ecology will streamline the process for reclaiming water.
The rule requires that reclaimed water projects protect public health and water quality. Reclaimed water can be used for irrigation, landscaping, flushing toilets, improving wetlands or stream flows, recharging groundwater and other beneficial uses. It addresses all aspects of reclaimed water; including permitting for generating, distributing and using reclaimed water across the state.
Reclaiming water uses advanced technologies to remove pathogens and contaminants from wastewater so that it is safe to be used again. Reclaimed water is a key component of managing Washington waters wisely and protecting our state’s resources for future generations. The use of reclaimed water preserves Washington’s drinking water and helps reduce the discharge of wastewater to the state’s lakes, rivers and Puget Sound. It can also help our state prepare for impacts from climate change.
“We’re proud of the effort that has led to this new rule,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “Reclaiming water can help Washington communities prepare for and recover from droughts. By expanding options for reclaimed water use, we can help Washington communities use the right water for the right use.”
Reclaiming water is one-way Washington’s rapidly growing communities can meet increased demands for water. An example can be found in eastern Washington, where the Odessa aquifer is being depleted. The city of Othello is pursuing reuse and reclaimed water projects to take pressure off the aquifer and ensure the city has the water it needs.
“We’ve documented declining groundwater in Othello’s water supply wells. The city is pursuing the reuse and reclaiming of water as tools for our city,” said Mayor of Othello Shawn R. Logan. “This will ensure we use existing water sources more efficiently and protect the city’s potable water. Ecology’s adoption of the reclaimed water rule clarifies the regulatory requirements for the city and we strongly support this planning process.”
The reclaimed water rule is the state’s first rule governing these practices. The rule creates statewide standards and makes a clear and predictable permitting process for reclaimed water projects, while protecting public health and water quality. The rule comes after a decade of work with Washington State Department of Health, utilities and other stakeholders to develop protective standards, as well as a project planning, design and permitting process that works for everyone.
This rule will become effective on February 23, 2018.
Samsung Among Top Ten on EPA Green Power List
Samsung Electronics America, Inc., and Samsung Austin Semiconductor, LLC. have announced that through continued sustainability efforts, the company now ranks at No. 9 on the EPA’s Green Power Partnership Top 30 Tech & Telecom list and No. 57 on the National Top 100 List. The rankings represent the largest green power users among technology and telecommunications partners and overall partners, respectively, within EPA’s Green Power Partnership.
Each year Samsung offsets a percentage of its energy consumption with renewable wind energy. The company is currently supporting nearly 145 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power production annually. According to the EPA, Samsung’s green power purchases are equivalent to the annual electricity use of more than 12,000 average American homes. Samsung’s choice to use green power helps advance the voluntary market for green power and development of those sources.
“Samsung has a long-standing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts associated with our electricity use,” said Michael Lawder, Senior Vice President of Customer Care at Samsung Electronics America. “This recognition by the EPA is validation of our ever-increasing sustainability efforts and we’re honored to be named a national leader in green power usage.”
By moving the needle in the voluntary green power market, Samsung is helping to reduce the negative health impacts of air emissions including those related to ozone, fine particles, acid rain, and regional haze. Samsung’s corporate sustainability efforts include driving improvements across all areas of business.
Kenworth Truck Plant Recognized for Environmental Stewardship
Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler visited Kenworth truck plant in Chillicothe, OH to recognize the company’s ongoing efforts in environmental stewardship.
Director Butler toured the facility and learned how the company has reduced energy and materials use through efficiency and recycling. Director Butler congratulated the company and its employees for achieving silver level recognition in Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence program.
“Kenworth’s efforts have produced efficiencies in nearly every aspect of its operations, resulting in using less water and energy, reclaiming or reusing solvents and wastewater and becoming a zero-landfill facility,” Director Butler said. “Kenworth is proving that large manufacturers can significantly reduce their environmental footprint and save money doing it. I’m proud to recognize this important Ohio company.”
Kenworth has produced more than 500,000 trucks. In 2017 Kenworth’s Chillicothe plant reduced the waste created per truck by 78 lb, or 2.7 million lb less for the year. That figure includes reclaiming and reusing 387,000 gallons of solvent, recycling or eliminating the use of about 3 million lb of cardboard, 5 million lb of wood and more than a million pounds of metal. The company began a returnable rack project in 2017 that has eliminated 694 tons of cardboard waste and 75 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
By recovering approximately 70% of the solvent stream used to clean paint lines, Kenworth Chillicothe’s system became the benchmark for all PACCAR company manufacturing sites.
The company’s energy savings achievements include switching to LED lighting, optimizing and conducting preventive maintenance of machines, staggering air conditioning set points and turning off half the rooftop HVAC systems during weekends. Working with AEP, the facility has reduced electric use by 5 million kilowatt hours.
The facility diverted and repurposed more than 1.25 million gallons of wastewater into a rolled concrete project. Additionally, collected storm water has been used for dust suppressant applications on the facility’s gravel roadways and parking areas, reducing the use of potable water and the application of chemical dust suppressant.
Kenworth is a 100% landfill-free facility, meaning none of the plant’s waste goes to landfills. Usable materials such as broken wood pallets are sent to a facility to be ground into mulch. Sleeper mattresses that don’t meet specifications for use in the trucks are donated to homeless and domestic violence shelters. Material that cannot be reused or repurposed is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.
Ohio EPA’s E3 program acknowledges Ohio businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. To earn a silver-level award, a business or organization must have a good environmental compliance record and complete environmental stewardship activities that show a strong corporate environmental ethic.
Panning for Silver in Laundry Wastewater
Silver nanoparticles are being used in clothing for their anti-odor abilities but some of this silver comes off when the clothes are laundered. The wastewater from this process could end up in the environment, possibly harming aquatic life, so researchers have attempted to recover the silver. Now, one group reports in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering that detergent chemistry plays a significant role in how much of this silver can be removed from laundry wastewater.
Some clothing manufacturers incorporate silver nanoparticles into their products because these tiny bits of metal can kill odor-causing bacteria. But researchers have found that some of that silver is washed away as the garments are laundered. These silver nanoparticles can be toxic to many aquatic organisms and can impact the effectiveness of bacterial processing in wastewater treatment plants. But recovering the nanomaterial from laundry water isn’t an easy process because of low concentrations of silver in the water, high concentrations of competing ions and an uncertainty as to which exact forms of silver are present. Previous research by Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz showed that ion-exchange technology is highly selective for silver, but this study did not examine the role of detergent chemistry, which could interfere with this method. So that’s what they wanted to examine in the current report.
The researchers analyzed how silver interacts with individual detergent ingredients. The team found that silver mainly exists as a positively charged ion, and this form will interact with several detergent compounds under certain conditions. For example, the positively charged silver ion will interact with negatively charged ions in the detergent at different pH ranges. The group also used an ion-exchange resin, which recovered as much as about 99% of the silver, depending on the pH and concentration of the competing ions. The resin was then tested with detergent components and reused over five cycles, and it maintained the ability to remove silver. But the addition of products, such as bleaching and water-softening agents, negatively impacted the efficiency of the resin.
Montana to Require Wind-powered Electric Generation Facilities to Set Aside Funds for Environmental Impacts
Montana’s HB 216 requires bonding of large wind-powered electric generating facilities in Montana. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality was charged with developing these rules and on January 12, 2018, the Notice of Adoption of the final rules was published in the Montana Administrative Register.
These facilities will be the first power producers in Montana required by statute to post a bond.
Wind turbine towers and associated infrastructure such as roadways may have an environmental cost to the areas they are built upon. The intent of the law and its companion rules is to ensure money is available to restore affected lands at the end of a facility’s useful life. The new rules also ensure disturbed lands are restored to comparable productivity given the existing character and nature of the site.
As part of the rule making process, DEQ held stakeholder meetings and received written and oral comments from the public on the draft rules. Based on this comment, several changes were made to the draft rules, including: clarification that wind towers must be removed at the end of their useful life; assurance that existing agreements between landowners and wind facility owners will be honored; and assurance of environmental protection and financial security of future landowners and citizens of Montana.
“Though wind energy has minimal environmental impact on the land, these new rules will ensure landowners and communities that large wind turbines and other materials will be properly removed at the end of a wind farm’s useful life,” said Jeff Fox of Renewable Northwest. “DEQ did a tremendous job of gathering input and creating rational, workable rules and Montana remains a great place to develop wind projects.”
Most wind facilities are required to be bonded within 15 years from the start of operation. Facilities that began operation prior to January 1, 2007, must be bonded within 16 years. Bond amounts may vary substantially based on the estimated salvage value of a wind facility’s components at the time DEQ estimates the bond amount. DEQ will review a facility’s bond every five years to ensure the amount is still adequate. The rules also state when a bond can be released and how the department will forfeit a bond if necessary to conduct decommission activities.
Representative Jim Keane from Butte sponsored HB 216. The intent of the bill was to ensure that the relatively new wind industry is responsible for the proper decommissioning of facilities.
“These rules protect the environment and provide financial assurance to landowners and Montana citizens that current and future wind generation facilities will be appropriately decommissioned and thus not become a burden on the taxpayers of the State of Montana,” said Rep. Keane. “DEQ made sure the process involved input from stakeholders and the public and I’m pleased these rules reflect legislative intent.”
DEQ’s response to formal comments can be found in the Montana Administrative Register http://sos.mt.gov/Portals/142/ARM/2017/MAR/MAR17-24.pdf?dt= The complete and final rule will be published in the Montana Administrative Register within the next two months; the unofficial final rules can be found on DEQ’s website at: http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/renewableenergy/resourcesandtechnology/Wind.
For information about wind energy in Montana visit www.deq.mt.gov/energy. Contact Kyla Maki at 406-444-6478 or by email at email@example.com for questions about these new rules.
Conservation and Tribal Groups Sue to Block Repeal of Federal Fracking Regulations
A coalition of environmental and tribal groups sued to block the Trump administration’s repeal of a 2015 rule designed to protect water, wildlife, and public health from the harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands.
The Bureau of Land Management’s repeal of the rule eliminates federal protections intended to safeguard more than 700 million acres of public and tribal lands. The 2015 regulation required companies to disclose the chemicals they used in fracking operations, set standards for well construction, limited the use of waste pits to store fracking wastes, and required common-sense best management practices to protect both surface and ground water from contamination.
The rule, which was targeted by court challenges from the oil and gas industry and its allies, never took effect. After taking office, the Trump administration rescinded the rule in December 2017. The BLM, which manages oil and gas development on more than 700 million acres of public and tribal lands and minerals, is now operating under regulations developed in the 1980s, well before modern fracking techniques became commonplace. In rescinding the Hydraulic Fracturing Rule, the BLM also eliminated even some of the minimal safeguards that had been part of its 1980s-era regulations.
BLM developed the 2015 regulation through an extensive five-year review process. The agency concluded in 2015 that its 1980s-era regulations were inadequate to protect against the environmental and public health risks posed by fracking. The 2015 rule drew on industry best practices to modernize standards and protect public lands and tribal communities through additional oversight.
The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to declare the repeal in violation of several federal laws—including the Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Indian Mineral Leasing Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The suit also asks that the court reinstate the 2015 Hydraulic Fracturing Rule.
Represented by Earthjustice, the coalition bringing the suit includes the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Earthworks, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, and Western Resource Advocates.
"The rescission of the 2015 rule has put the Navajo communities in Northwest New Mexico in a precarious environmental and human health position,” said Diné CARE Board Member Mario Atencio. “The local communities consist mainly of owners of individual Indian allotted lands and the Department of the Interior is their trustee. These communities feel that the rescinding of the rule puts them more at risk of accidental and/or negligent contamination of their current sole water source. I am from Torreon in Northwest New Mexico, and we are deeply concerned that current decisions made by BLM and the Interior Department regarding fluid mineral development purposely steamroll local Navajo community concerns. I see this as part of the environmental racist legacy of the BLM made clear by the lack of meaningful tribal consultation in this and many other agency actions.”
“The Trump administration wants to leave our water and wildlife unprotected from fracking pollution,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking is a dirty, dangerous business. It endangers public health, destroys animal habitat and threatens our climate. That’s why we’re determined to fight this illegal and reckless decision in court.”
Recent Hurricanes Highlight Toxic Chemical Releases in Vulnerable Communities
The year 2017 was the most destructive hurricane season in recent years, bringing devastation and heartache to people living in parts of the Caribbean and United States. During Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, knock-on effects released toxic chemicals from industrial facilities into the air and water. About a month after Hurricane Maria, community members in Puerto Rico reached out to Boston University School of Public Health, wondering if water from a well near a Superfund Site on the island was safe to drink. Evidence suggests that, the hurricanes’ chemical knock-on effects will disparately affect these communities. See the results of their research.
Biofuel Company Owners Indicted for Seeking Tax Refunds Based on Fraudulently Claimed Fuel Tax Credits
United States Attorney David J. Freed for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announce that two owners of a Pennsylvania biofuel company were charged in a superseding indictment with conspiring to defraud the IRS and aiding and assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent fuel tax credit refund claim.
According to the superseding indictment, Ben Wootton, age 52, of Pennsylvania, and Race Miner, age 48, of Colorado owned and operated Keystone Biofuels Inc., located in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, and later in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Wootton, serving as President, and Miner, serving as Chief Executive Officer, are alleged to have participated in a conspiracy to defraud the IRS by, among other things, fraudulently claiming tax refunds based on the Biodiesel Mixture Credit – a federal excise tax credit for persons or businesses who mix biodiesel with diesel fuel and use or sell the mixture as a fuel. Biodiesel is a type of renewable fuel that meets a set of specific requirements.
According to the superseding indictment, the Biodiesel Mixture Credit was available only on fuel meeting those requirements that the claimant had mixed with diesel fuel. Wootton and Miner allegedly caused Keystone to fraudulently seek tax refunds from the IRS by claiming the credit based on non-qualifying and, in at least some instances, non-existent or non-mixed fuel. The indictment further alleges that Wootton and Miner created false books and records and supporting documents to account for the nonexistent fuel; engaged in a series of sham financial transactions to give the false books and records the appearance of legitimacy; and sought to obstruct an ongoing IRS investigation by providing false documentation to an IRS Special Agent.
These charges are in addition to those previously lodged against Wootton and Miner. In a May 2017 indictment, both men, along with Keystone Biofuels Inc., were charged with conspiring to make false statements to the EPA and making false statements to the EPA.
If convicted, Wootton and Miner face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy and three years in prison for aiding and assisting in the filing a false refund claim. They also face a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
Drum Reconditioner Indicted for Illegal Storage and Disposal of Hazardous Waste
The former owner and president of a Glassboro, New Jersey, drum reconditioning company was indicted for allegedly illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste, U.S Attorney Craig Carpenito and Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced.
Thomas Toy, 73, of Elmer, New Jersey, was charged with one count of illegal storage and disposal of hazardous waste at the site of Superior Barrel and Drum Company Inc. (Superior) in Glassboro, New Jersey, in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
According to the Indictment, Superior received drums from various industrial customers, cleaned and processed those drums, and then resold them. Toy directed and supervised the operations of Superior, including the storage and disposal of large amounts of waste – including hazardous waste – at the company’s site. Superior did not have a permit to store or dispose of hazardous waste there. From Sept. 27, 2013, to Sept. 25, 2014, the EPA conducted a removal action of waste stored at Superior’s site. Approximately 1,800 containers of waste were removed, and much of the waste was found to be hazardous. The EPA’s removal cost was $4.2 million.
Toy was charged under RCRA, which was enacted in 1976 to address a growing nationwide problem with industrial and municipal waste. The law is designed to protect human health and the environment and provided controls on the management and disposal of hazardous waste. It prohibits the treatment, storage or disposal of any hazardous waste without a permit. The charge on which Toy was indicted carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the EPA, under the direction Special Agent in Charge Tyler C. Amon, with the investigation leading to the charge.
SunCoke Energy and Cokenergy Fined $5 Million for Air Violations at Indiana Harbor Coke Plant
SunCoke Energy Inc., its subsidiary Indiana Harbor Coke Company (IHCC), and Cokenergy have agreed to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations relating to excess emissions of coke oven gases from their coke plant in East Chicago, Indiana, announced the Department of Justice, the EPA, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Implementation of the Consent Decree’s requirements will result in estimated annual emissions reductions of 2,075 tons of coke oven emissions, which are hazardous air pollutants, and include 1,895 tons of SO2, 125 tons of particulate matter, 55 tons of volatile organic compounds, and 680 pounds of lead. In addition, under the settlement agreement Cokenergy will spend $250,000 on a lead abatement project in the East Chicago area to reduce lead hazards in schools, day-care centers, and other buildings with priority given to young children and pregnant women. Additionally, the companies will provide copies of reports submitted under the Consent Decree to two public libraries in East Chicago.
The settlement also requires comprehensive coke oven rebuilds to address oven leaks, including potential permanent shut down of the worst performing battery. The companies have agreed to enhanced monitoring and testing requirements, including two stack tests to measure lead emissions. Further, the settlement requires implementation of preventive maintenance and operations plans to minimize excess emissions. Finally, the companies will pay a $5 million civil penalty, to be split evenly between the United States and the State of Indiana.
“This settlement will result in significant reductions in harmful air pollution and is welcome news for East Chicago, an area which is currently not meeting national air quality standards for ozone,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood. “The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is proud to have partnered with the EPA, the state of Indiana, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in achieving these results.”
“Today’s settlement is one example of how EPA is committed to reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants in communities across the country,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Lead exposure is a serious problem and reducing it is a priority for EPA.”
“We fight every day to protect the safety of Hoosiers and their families,” Attorney General Curtis Hill of the State of Indiana said. “This agreement goes a long way to protect Hoosiers and their families in Northwest Indiana and the East Chicago community.”
“I’m grateful to have worked with our federal partners to get this issue resolved,” said Commissioner Bruno Pigott of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. “It’s my hope that, now and in the future, this settlement will improve not only the air quality in Northwest Indiana, but also the quality of life for Hoosiers living in East Chicago.”
“This settlement provides a long-term solution to protect air quality and control emissions,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana Thomas L. Kirsch II. “We will continue to work with other agencies to protect Indiana families from environmental harm.”
The primary violations alleged relate to leaking coke ovens and excessive bypass venting of hot coking gases directly to the atmosphere, resulting in excess SO2, particulate matter, and lead emissions from the facility’s coke ovens and bypass vent stacks, in violation of applicable permit limits. SO2 contributes to acid rain and exacerbates respiratory illness, particularly in children and the elderly. Exposure to particulate pollution has been linked to health impacts that include decreased lung function, aggravated asthma and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. EPA has recognized that lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the United States for children ages 6 and younger. In addition, coke oven emissions are a known human carcinogen. Chronic (long-term) exposure in humans can result in conjunctivitis, severe dermatitis and lesions of the respiratory system and digestive system.
The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. It is available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
IDEM has created a link on the agency’s website where the public will be able to access the documents that the companies submit to IDEM under the Consent Decree. Once the Consent Decree has become effective, documents submitted to IDEM will be uploaded to the dedicated link.
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