EPA to Issue New Rules for Non-Road Engines

August 18, 2008

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) announced that the EPA will issue Phase 3 emission standards for new nonroad* spark ignition engines later this month. The standards will further reduce emissions and include some key requests from OPEI.

Following the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act, EPA began Phase 1 of its program to regulate outdoor power equipment emissions, which became effective in 1997. Phase 2 followed in 2002 and culminated in this year’s Phase 3 regulations. Once fully implemented, the outdoor power equipment industry will have reduced emissions by 95% in just 15 years since it first became regulated.

“Although challenging, we believe the new exhaust emission standards are fair and achievable,” said Kris Kiser, vice president of Public Affairs for OPEI. “OPEI members will meet or exceed the new standards.”

The new EPA Phase 3 Regulations include the following provisions:

  • An additional 35% reduction in exhaust emissions and a 45% reduction in total evaporative emissions beginning in 2009 and fully implemented by 2015.
  • Stronger EPA enforcement authority to prevent importation and retail of non-compliant equipment, with safeguards to assure equal compliance for U.S. and off-shore manufacturers.
  • Ability to certify engines on E10 fuel, ensuring products can operate more efficiently using fuels currently in the marketplace.

“By attaining a 95% reduction in emissions within 15 years, and with scientific studies confirming a carbon benefit for responsibly maintained turf grass, OPEI is proud of the industry’s track record in environmental stewardship and developing cleaner technologies,“ Kiser said.

*Products with nonroad spark ignition engines include lawnmowers, garden tractors, utility vehicles, trimmers, edgers, chain saws, snow throwers, tillers, leaf blowers, and other related products.

EPA to Collect information on Disposal of Unused Pharmaceuticals

EPA is planning to submit a proposed Information Collection Request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). The proposed ICR will cover hospitals, long-term care facilities, and veterinary hospitals via detailed questionnaires. Before submitting the ICR to OMB for review and approval, EPA is soliciting comments on specific aspects of the proposed information collection. EPA is also soliciting comments on the scope of the ICR. EPA plans to survey hospitals, long-term care facilities, and veterinary hospitals, but is seeking feedback on whether or not to include doctor's offices, veterinary offices, university clinics, and prison clinics.

This proposed ICR includes two detailed questionnaires—one tailored for hospitals and long-term care facilities and the other for veterinary hospitals. EPA plans to collect information on current disposal practices and alternative practices for managing unused pharmaceuticals. In addition, this data will give the types and amounts of unused pharmaceuticals being disposed. To date, there is no known source of this data. The benefit of collecting this data directly from health-care facilities is to highlight alternative disposal methods for medical and veterinary facilities. EPA will use this information to estimate waste generation reductions that the use of Best Management Practices can achieve.

For further information regarding the questionnaires, contact Janet Goodwin at goodwin.janet@epa.gov.

Ohio Proposes Emission Reduction Credit Rules

. The new rules are being proposed to establish a voluntary Emission Reduction Credit (ERC) banking program for the purpose of emission offsets. The ERC banking program will provide for a more efficient way to generate, transfer, and use ERCs in nonattainment areas within the state of Ohio. Rather than using Ohio’s case-by-case method of verifying ERCs at the time of use, this program streamlines many procedural functions and creates an ERC banking system that publicly displays all available ERCs on the Ohio EPA website so that facilities in need of emission offsets know what is available before applying for a permit subject to major New Source Review.

Pursuant to Section 121.39 of the Ohio Revised Code, DAPC was required to consult with interested parties affected by the rules before the division formally adopts them. On Sept. 15, 2007, these rules went out for a 60-day review by interested parties.

Pursuant to Section 119.03 of the Ohio Revised Code, a public hearing on these rule changes will be conducted on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008 at 10 a.m. in Conference Room A at Ohio EPA, Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, Ohio.

Honeywell Agrees to $6 Million Settlement for Environmental Violations

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard announced that Honeywell International, Inc. (Honeywell) will pay a $5 million civil penalty for hazardous waste and environmental cleanup violations at its Phoenix airport facility and $1 million for a supplemental environmental project.

The penalty settles a lawsuit filed by ADEQ and the Attorney General’s Office against Honeywell in July 2004 for a number of environmental violations spanning more than 30 years. The lawsuit alleged that between 1974 and 2004, Honeywell violated numerous environmental laws, including the Arizona Water Quality Control Act, Arizona Hazardous Waste Disposal Act, and the Arizona Underground Storage Tank Act.

Honeywell’s alleged violations included discharging chlorinated solvents such as vinyl chloride, dichloroethane, trichloroethane, and trichloroethylene into the Phoenix sewer system without a permit. Additional violations included failing to clean up historic releases of fuel from underground storage tanks (USTs) at the airport facility and failing to fully disclose information regarding contamination over a period of several years at the facility.

“I am very pleased that Honeywell worked closely with the state to reach this settlement," Governor Janet Napolitano said. "This clearly shows our commitment to protecting our environment and precious groundwater resources."

“These were extremely serious violations of the law, and the size of the penalty reflects the significance of the problems at this facility,” Owens said.

Owens added that as a result of the enforcement action taken by ADEQ, Honeywell has improved its environmental compliance significantly in recent years. “The company has made a lot of progress at this facility in the last few years, due to both a change in attitude and a change in leadership,” he said.

The settlement also resolves three notices of violation ADEQ issued against Honeywell between 2005 and 2007. These notices cited 14 incidents of improper storage and disposal of hazardous waste as well as failure to inform employees of proper handling and emergency procedures. In one such violation, ADEQ inspectors discovered that cyanide-containing wastewater was stored next to wastewater containing chromic acid. When combined, these two substances react to form cyanide gas.

In addition, Honeywell discovered that USTs at the facility were leaking petroleum into the groundwater table. Honeywell did not report the leaks to ADEQ for more than 10 years.

As part of the settlement process, Honeywell conducted a comprehensive environmental audit at all of its Arizona facilities and disclosed the findings and corrective actions to ADEQ. The company also upgraded its fuel distribution facilities to prevent leaks and is in the process of cleaning up the fuel in the groundwater.

In addition to the $5 million civil penalty, Honeywell will provide a $1 million supplemental environmental project to the Western Governors Association for the Western Climate Initiative in support of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the West.

New York Officially Adopts Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program

The New York State Environmental Board approved regulations to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is an initiative begun in December 2005 by 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to enact regulations to significantly reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.

New York and the other RGGI states have designed the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a simple and constructive way. The states have committed to cap and then reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that power plants in their region are allowed to emit, limiting the region's total contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

"Today's action is the culmination of extensive work by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and our state partners to respond to the challenges posed by climate change," said Pete Grannis, DEC Commissioner and Environmental Board Chairman. "With the approval of the RGGI regulations today, we have enacted a key component of Governor David A. Paterson's plan to move New York towards a clean energy economy and ensure a healthier environment for our entire region."

"The Environmental Board's approval of regulations designed to implement the nation's first carbon 'cap-and-trade' program is a landmark step for New York State," Chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission Garry Brown said. "By taking this bold and innovative action, the board is helping turn Governor Paterson's vision of a clean energy economy into reality."

RGGI is a major departure from prior cap-and-trade programs, with the state not automatically giving away CO2 allowances to power plant owners. Power plant companies will have to buy CO2 allowances through an auction or in the secondary market to "cover" every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The quarterly auction process is live, with the availability of bid preparation materials released for the first auction on September 25.

Each RGGI state is issuing its own regulations for implementation. DEC first proposed regulations to enact RGGI last fall, followed by a revised draft and comment period in May 2008. With today's approval, New York is on track to offer its CO2 allowances in the December 2008 RGGI auction—in advance of the compliance start date of Jan. 1, 2009. While New York is not offering any CO2 allowances for sale in the September auction, New York power plants and companies, as well as individuals, may bid for the CO2 allowances offered by other states in the September auction. Any CO2 allowance purchased in the September auction can be used by power generators to comply with the New York regulation when it is effective.

Proceeds from the auction will fund energy-efficiency programs, renewable energy projects, and innovative noncarbon-emitting technologies. The program will also provide limited opportunities for power companies to offset a portion of their emissions with other "green" investments.

The 16-member Environmental Board is composed of state agency heads and representatives of the environmental community, citizen groups, business, and industry.

Security Preparedness at Federally Managed Dams

A new report from the National Research Council, Assessment of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Security Program, looks at the level of security preparedness at many of the nation’s largest dams, including five national critical infrastructure sites: Hoover, Folsom, Grand Coulee, Glen Canyon, and Shasta dams. The report assesses security programs at these sites and suggests ways to improve the Bureau of Reclamation’s ability to prevent, deter, respond to, and recover from malicious acts at its facilities, which provide water and power to millions.

Arizona Power Plant to Pay a $950,000 Penalty and Install Controls to Reduce Emissions

The Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (SRP) has agreed to install state-of-the-art air pollution controls at an estimated cost of $400 million, pay a $950,000 civil penalty, and spend $4 million on environmental improvement projects in Arizona to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Coronado coal-fired power plant near St. Johns, Ariz.

In a complaint filed August 12 in federal court in Arizona, the federal government alleged that SRP illegally modified two units at the plant, thereby increasing air pollution. SRP was cited for failing to obtain necessary pre-construction permits and install required pollution control equipment to reduce the by-products of coal combustion, sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The settlement, filed concurrently with the complaint, requires SRP to install two scrubbers to control SO2, burners to limit NOx, and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) unit to further control NOx emissions. This is the first settlement ever to require an SCR retrofit of an existing coal-fired electric generating unit in the Western United States. The controls will reduce combined emissions of SO2 and NOx by more than 21,000 tons each year.

“Power plant modifications must include required emissions controls to protect public health and the environment,” said Wayne Nastri, administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “These air pollution controls, coupled with local environmental projects, will improve air quality for all the people of Arizona and improve visibility at our national parks.”

Under the settlement, SRP will spend $4 million on environmentally beneficial projects to reduce air emissions and mitigate the impacts of the alleged violations. The projects include the following:

  • Retrofitting public school bus diesel engines in the Phoenix metropolitan area with pollution control equipment
  • Installing solar photovoltaic panels on school buildings in Arizona and funding the maintenance of the panels for at least 10 years
  • Offering incentives to residential homeowners, such as rebates, toward the replacement of pre-1988 wood stoves with cleaner burning, energy-efficient stoves or hearth appliances

Nitrogen oxides and sulfur-dioxide emissions cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. These pollutants are also significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze, which impair visibility in national parks. Air pollution from power plants can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.

This is the 15th settlement secured by the federal government as part of its enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined SO2 and NOx emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed more than 1.8 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls are installed and operating.

Turning Waste Into Ethanol

Say the word “biofuels” and most people think of grain ethanol and biodiesel. But there’s another older technology called gasification that’s getting a new look from researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University. By combining gasification with high-tech nanoscale porous catalysts, they hope to create ethanol from a wide range of biomass, including distiller’s grain left over from ethanol production, corn stover from the field, grass, wood pulp, animal waste, and garbage.

Gasification is a process that turns carbon-based feedstocks under high temperature and pressure in an oxygen-controlled atmosphere into synthesis gas, or syngas. Syngas is made up primarily of carbon monoxide and hydrogen (more than 85% by volume) and smaller quantities of carbon dioxide and methane.

It’s basically the same technique that was used to extract the gas from coal that fueled gas light fixtures prior to the advent of the electric light bulb. The advantage of gasification compared to fermentation technologies is that it can be used in a variety of applications, including process heat, electric power generation, and synthesis of commodity chemicals and fuels.

“There was some interest in converting syngas into ethanol during the first oil crisis back in the 70s,” said Ames Lab Chemist and Chemical and Biological Science Program Director Victor Lin. “The problem was that catalysis technology at that time didn’t allow selectivity in the by-products. They could produce ethanol, but you’d also get methane, aldehydes, and a number of other undesirable products.”

A catalyst is a material that facilitates and speeds up a chemical reaction without chemically changing the catalyst itself. In studying the chemical reactions in syngas conversion, Lin found that the carbon-monoxide molecules that yielded ethanol could be “activated” in the presence of a catalyst with a unique structural feature.

“If we can increase this ‘activated’ CO adsorption on the surface of the catalyst, it improves the opportunity for the formation of ethanol molecules,” Lin said. “And if we can increase the amount of surface area for the catalyst, we can increase the amount of ethanol produced.”

Lin’s group looked at using a metal alloy as the catalyst. To increase the surface area, they used nano-scale catalyst particles dispersed widely within the structure of mesoporous nanospheres, tiny sponge-like balls with thousands of channels running through them. The total surface area of these dispersed catalyst nanoparticles is roughly 100 times greater than the surface area you’d get with the same quantity of catalyst material in larger, macro-scale particles.

It is also important to control the chemical makeup of the syngas. Researchers at ISU's Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies (CSET) have spent several years developing fluidized bed gasifiers to provide reliable operation and high-quality syngas for applications, ranging from replacing natural gas in grain ethanol plants to providing hydrogen for fuel cells.

“Gasification to ethanol has received increasing attention as an attractive approach to reaching the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard of 36 billion gallons of biofuel,” said Robert Brown, CSET director.

“The great thing about using syngas to produce ethanol is that it expands the kinds of materials that can be converted into fuels,” Lin said. “You can use the waste product from the distilling process or any number of other sources of biomass, such as switchgrass or wood pulp. Basically any carbon-based material can be converted into syngas. And once we have syngas, we can turn that into ethanol.”

Waste Hauler Will Pay $195,000 for Truck Idling in Massachusetts

Allied Waste Services of Massachusetts will pay a $195,000 penalty to settle an environmental enforcement case brought by EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice for excessive motor vehicle idling.

In 2007, an EPA inspector observed more than 60 diesel-powered garbage trucks idling excessively at four Allied depots in Quincy, Fall River, Revere, and Brockton.

The settlement, filed as a judicial consent decree in federal court, is the latest of nine federal enforcement actions brought against vehicle fleet owners in New England for idling violations. Allied's settlement includes an anti-idling program with driver training, posted signs, and twice-daily management inspections of the depots' parking lots. Allied will also certify that automatic shut-off devices in its trucks are working and set to a five-minute standard.

Diesel engines emit pollutants that can cause or aggravate a variety of health conditions such as asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and heart disease. Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can also cause lung cancer. People with asthma or other respiratory/cardiac conditions, and children whose lungs are still developing, are particularly vulnerable. Three of Allied's depots were in heavily populated areas.

"Excessive vehicle idling is an entirely preventable form of air pollution,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Idling from diesel engines contributes to ozone smog and particulate pollution, increasing health risks for people who are exposed to these emissions."

This action is part of EPA's ongoing effort to reduce unnecessary engine idling. Idling wastes fuel, emits greenhouse gases, and degrades air quality. EPA's enforcement effort is complemented by providing assistance to fleets and facilities to help them find alternatives to idling. Since an idling truck or bus can waste nearly a gallon of fuel per hour and incurs significantly more engine wear than driving, curbing excessive idling is a win-win situation for both fleet owners and the environment.

The Massachusetts idling regulation enforced by EPA in this case generally limits vehicle idling to no more than five minutes. Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island also have anti-idling laws.

Green Roofs Differ in Building Cooling, Water Handling Capabilities

The first study to compare the performance of different types of green roofs has been completed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and suggests that buyers shouldn't assume these roofs are created equal.

Interest in vegetated roofs has increased as water and energy conservation becomes more important to property owners. Yet the study of six different manufacturers' products found the green roofs varied greatly in capabilities, such as how much they cooled down a building's interior and how much rainwater they captured during downpours.

"Just having a green roof may not mean anything in terms of preventing water from reaching the street level, for instance," said Dr. Mark Simmons, a center ecologist and the lead investigator on the study. "Green roofs have to be done right, and our hope is to help manufacturers understand how to improve their designs."

Simmons and collaborators published their findings online Friday on the website of the journal Urban Ecosystems. The researchers will continue to collect real-time temperature and other data from the study.

Wildflower Center staff designed the first commercial green roof in Austin at the Escarpment Village Starbuck's. Simmons, center colleagues, and Brian Gardiner from Austech Roof Consultants Inc. simulated green roof conditions by studying the manufacturers' roofs atop metal-insulated boxes. The study of 24 experimental roof tops during fall 2006 and spring 2007 at the center suggested a green roof could reduce a building's air conditioning bills by about 21% compared to traditional, tar-based black-top roofs.

During one 91-degree day of the study, for example, a black-topped box without air conditioning reached 129 degrees inside. Meanwhile, the green roof replicas produced indoor temperatures of 97 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That's a huge difference to have a 20-or-so degree temperature drop," Simmons said, noting that green roofs' temperature-lowering capabilities are also believed to double the lifespan of roofing material.

An even greater temperature difference was found on roof surfaces, where black-top roofs reached 154 degrees Fahrenheit on that 91-degree day. By comparison, the soil temperature of the green roofs was between 88 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Part of the rooftop differences, Simmons noted, resulted from the native plants used on the green roofs. Each had 16 different types of plants native to Texas in a similar arrangement as part of this first-ever study of their use on green roofs. The study didn't directly measure their cooling impact. However, plants cool surfaces by providing shade and by shedding water to cool down, like humans do by sweating.

States such as Texas that experience flash flooding may benefit even more from the ability of green roofs to capture water, lessening runoff onto streets and storm drains. Yet this feature varied the most among the six manufacturers. The better green roofs retained all of the water during a ½-inch rainfall, and just less than half the water when 2 inches of rain fell. Some roofs, however, only retained about a quarter of the water in a light, ½-inch rain and as little as 8% during deluges.

The presence of native plants likely helped all the green roofs capture water better. In comparison to sedums, a type of succulents traditionally used on most green roofs, native plants can take in more water and release more of it to the atmosphere. The center will study these factors in future green roof research.

Regardless of those findings, Simmons doesn't expect to be giving blanket recommendations about green roof manufacturers because of the variability in their products. That variability is the reason that some of the green roofs in the study that captured water well didn't have the best plant growth, for example.

"After you choose a manufacturer, tell them what kind of plants and what other features you want," Simmons said. "It's up to them to then tailor the green roof to your needs."

California Refrigeration Facility Fined $63,300 in Air Pollution Penalties

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has fined Clougherty Packing/Farmer John, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods, $63,300 for failure to comply with diesel truck emission requirements and for failing to file a one-time report for its Vernon, Calif., distribution facility, violating the Transport Refrigeration Unit facilities regulation. Further, the company failed to inspect its diesel truck fleet for excess emissions in 2006 and 2007.

As a result of the penalty, Farmer John must:

  • Submit delinquent transport refrigeration facility reports
  • Ensure that staff responsible for compliance with the diesel truck emission inspection program attend diesel education courses and provide certificates of completion within one year
  • Instruct vehicle operators to comply with the state's idling regulations
  • Complete heavy-duty diesel engine software and control technology upgrades in compliance with regulations
  • Supply all smoke inspection records to ARB for the next four years
  • Properly label engines to ensure compliance with the engine emissions certification program regulations


Facilities with 20 or more cold-storage loading docks are required to monitor, keep records, and report activities that create emissions, including diesel-powered refrigeration units mounted on trucks, trailers, shipping containers, and rail cars. These activities take place during the loading and unloading of perishables goods at distribution centers around the state.

Annual diesel truck inspections are designed to make sure that California emissions standards are met. Failing to conduct these inspections can lead to an increase of toxic diesel particulate matter and smog-forming nitrogen oxides into the air.

The California Air Pollution Control Fund, established to mitigate various sources of pollution through education and the advancement and use of cleaner technology, will receive $47,475; Farmer John will give $15,825 to the Peralta Community College District to fund diesel education courses at five community college campuses around the state.

Sandblaster Fined $30,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

Amex Inc., an East Boston, Mass., sandblaster of tanks, bridges, and barges, has paid a fine and will donate emergency response equipment, totaling $30,000, under the terms of a settlement with EPA regarding hazardous waste violations.

The agreement filed by EPA resolves violations of federal hazardous waste management law at the East Boston facility. Under the settlement, Amex paid a cash penalty of $9,650 and will donate $20,400 worth of emergency response equipment to the Boston Fire Department.

An EPA inspection in August 2006 identified that Amex had failed to perform hazardous waste determinations, had inadequately trained handlers of hazardous waste, had inadequate emergency preparedness plans, had not conducted necessary inspections of hazardous waste areas, and had not properly labeled hazardous waste containers.

In addition to the cash penalty, Amex will purchase six multi-gas detectors that will be donated to the Boston Fire Department hazardous materials units. The hand-held units will be used by the Fire Department’s hazardous materials response units to simultaneously monitor for volatile organic compounds with low vapor pressures and measure for combustible, toxic, and oxygen-deficient atmospheres in the event of a chemical emergency. The units allow response teams to monitor for hundreds of chemicals as well as four types of gases.

Under EPA oversight, Amex has now come into compliance and is working to ensure that it continues to comply with federal and other environmental requirements.

Roy Farms, Inc., Fined for Clean Air Act Violations

EPA announced August 14 that Roy Farms, Inc. (Roy Farms), has agreed to pay $29,320 for alleged federal Clean Air Act (CAA) emergency prevention and planning violations. The alleged violations occurred between July 2002 and July 2007.

As part of the settlement, Roy Farms has corrected all alleged violations and agreed to spend at least $84,120 on implementing a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) within the next three months. The SEP involves purchasing new communications and safety equipment for the East Valley Fire Department, Yakima County Fire District No. 4, to improve the department’s capabilities in responding to hazardous material emergencies in a safe and effective environment.

Based on an investigation of Roy Farms in August of 2006, EPA found that the facility lacked a prevention program to protect the public and the environment from off-site releases of anhydrous ammonia. EPA was particularly concerned about the lack of:

  • Safety information pertaining to the hazards of ammonia
  • Procedures for identifying, evaluating, and controlling the hazards involved in the cold storage process
  • Sufficient operating procedures and operator training
  • Documentation regarding process equipment maintenance


Roy Farms owns and operates a cold storage warehouse in Moxee, Wash., where it utilizes more than 10,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia for refrigeration purposes. At that level of use, the CAA requires Roy Farms to implement a Risk Management Program (RMP). Specifically, Section 112(r) requires all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle greater than a threshold amount of a regulated substance(s) to develop an RMP and submit Risk Management Plans. Toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, are covered by the program.

"The Risk Management Program is designed to protect public health and the environment from accidental releases of harmful chemicals,” said Javier Morales, EPA’s RMP Coordinator in Seattle. “Roy Farms’ emergency prevention program needed much more attention to achieve this goal. We can't take chances with public health.”

Anhydrous ammonia is one of the most dangerous chemicals used in refrigeration and agriculture. Few problems occur when the ammonia is being handled as intended; most accidents with anhydrous ammonia are due to uncontrolled releases. It is used and stored under high pressure, which requires specially designed and well-maintained equipment. Those who work with anhydrous ammonia must be trained to follow exact handling procedures. The primary causes of uncontrolled releases are improper handling procedures, careless or untrained workers, or faulty equipment.

Specific items required by the RMP include: development of an emergency response or action plan; hazard evaluation of a worst-case and more probable case chemical release; operator training; review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances; and operating procedures and equipment maintenance.

EPA Settles With Tyler Refrigeration Over Importing Banned Refrigerants

EPA recently reached an $18,899 settlement with Tyler Refrigeration for importing banned refrigerants from Mexico in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The company self-disclosed the infractions and received a reduced fine.

Tyler Refrigeration, a manufacturer of commercial refrigeration systems for the retail foods industry, imported 12,599 kilograms of HCFC 22 and HCFC 124, both Class II ozone-depleting substances, from sources outside the United States in violation of the stratospheric ozone-protection regulations.

“The EPA limits the importation of ozone-depleting chemicals into the United States to protect the ozone layer from further damage,” said Deborah Jordan, director of the Air Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office. “We thank Tyler Refrigeration for coming forward and voluntarily disclosing its unauthorized importation of harmful refrigerants.”

High in the atmosphere, the stratospheric ozone layer is the earth’s protective shield against excessive ultraviolet radiation. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation has been held responsible for increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts, depressed immune systems, decreased crop output, and the destruction of plankton, a critical link in the oceanic food chain.

The EPA’s stratospheric ozone-protection program aims to prevent depletion of the ozone layer through the production phase-out and use restriction of Class II refrigerants. Among other restrictions, the program regulates the importation of Class II ozone-depleting substances, such as HCFC 22 and HCFC 124.

Under the agency’s audit policy promoting self-disclosure, the EPA may reduce certain penalties for violations that are voluntarily discovered, promptly disclosed, and quickly corrected. Because Tyler Refrigeration self-disclosed to EPA the improper importations and met additional criteria, the agency applied the policy and reduced the proposed penalty from $98,199 to $18,889.

Shell Refinery Ordered to Correct Spill Readiness Deficiencies

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has ordered the Shell Puget Sound Refinery near Anacortes to take immediate action to demonstrate the company is fully prepared to respond to an oil spill at its facility.

Ecology issued the order Aug. 11, 2008, after department spill inspectors went to the facility on July 1 and found that the Shell refinery:

  • Wasn’t following the equipment readiness program detailed in their oil spill preparedness plan required by state law
  • Lacked maintenance records for its response equipment
  • Was unable to verify the location and condition of some of the spill response equipment listed in its spill readiness plan


Oil spill preparedness or “contingency” plans help ensure that refineries, pipelines, vessel shipping companies, and large oil-handling facilities operating in Washington can mount an effective and timely response if they spill oil. Contingency plans describe the actions and equipment companies will deploy to minimize oil spill-related damage to state waters and to natural, cultural, and economic resources.

The requirement to have a preventative maintenance program for spill response equipment is part of the state’s revised oil spill planning rules. The changes were prompted after equipment problems slowed the initial response during the 4,700-gallon heavy fuel oil spill in December 2003 at Point Wells in Snohomish County.

“What we found at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery is disappointing and unacceptable,” said Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Ecology’s Spill Preparedness Section Manager. “The refinery handles, produces, and helps distribute millions of gallons of oil annually. Maintaining response equipment is a critical part of being ready to respond to any spill that might occur, regardless of size.”

Pilkey-Jarvis said Ecology gave conditional approval to the refinery’s oil spill contingency plan in December 2007 with requirements for revisions to be in full compliance with the new state rules.

“So far, they have missed deadline requirements to make those revisions,” she said, adding that Shell is required to conduct another spill readiness drill this year.

Under the administrative order, Shell must:

  • Immediately submit the overdue plan revisions to fully comply with state rules.
  • Schedule a facilitated spill readiness drill by Aug. 20, 2008, that Ecology will evaluate.
  • Update its oil spill contingency plan by Aug. 22, 2008, to accurately reflect the response equipment Shell owns at the refinery.
  • Develop and put a preventative maintenance plan in place by Nov. 7, 2008, for all Shell-owned spill response equipment, such as oil containment boom, trailers, and boats. The company also must identify who will be responsible for keeping related records.
  • Conduct training for all appropriate facility personnel by Jan. 30, 2009, regarding the location, maintenance, and use of response equipment, and document all preventative maintenance actions.

“Shell Puget Sound Refinery takes great pride in its oil spill response plan, team, and equipment. We are committed to safety and environmental compliance and policies that help us operate as a good neighbor in Skagit County,” said Sue Krienen, general manager of Shell Puget Sound Refinery. “Our community is extremely important to us, and we operate our business in a manner that reflects those values.”

The company can appeal its order to a superior court. Ecology can revoke its conditional approval of Shell’s oil spill contingency plan if the company fails to comply with conditions set by the department.

$442,600 Fine for Unpermitted Air Emissions

Pan-O-Gold Baking Co. and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) have reached an agreement that requires the company to pay $442,600 for alleged air-quality violations at its bread-baking facility in St. Cloud, Minn.

The violations included installing and operating equipment for bread and bun production lines and beginning construction of a third production line without first obtaining required air quality permits. These actions were in violation of federal regulations, Minnesota statutes and MPCA rules requiring permits before constructing and operating air-emission equipment.

Of the $442,600, the company will pay $50,000 as a civil penalty to MPCA. The remaining $392,600 will go toward two Supplemental Environmental Projects. One project will pay the Minnesota Environmental Initiative $176,600 to help fund its Project Green Fleet, which provides diesel-emission-reduction retrofits on buses in the St. Cloud area. The remaining $216,000 will fund a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase thermal efficiency at Pan-O-Gold's St. Cloud bakery.

When calculating penalties, MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

American Driving Reaches Eighth Month of Steady Decline

The DOT released new data on August 13 that shows since last November, Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier—topping the 1970s’ total decline of 49.3 billion miles.

“We can’t afford to continue pinning our transportation network’s future to the gas tax,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. “Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges, and transit systems.”

Americans drove 4.7% less, or 12.2 billion miles fewer, in June 2008 than June 2007. The decline is most evident in rural travel, which has fallen by 4%—compared with the 1.2% decline in urban miles traveled—since the trend began last November.

In July, Secretary Peters unveiled the U.S. DOT’s transportation reform plan, which offers lawmakers several options to consider when Congress takes up highway and transit legislation next year. “It really makes little sense to try to upgrade our infrastructure using a revenue source as ineffective, unsustainable, and unpopular as the fuel tax,” she added.

“Secretary Peters’ plan to overhaul our nation’s transportation investment strategy begins the much-needed transition away from status-quo solutions that produce status-quo results. Her plan strengthens the abilities of state and local officials to integrate effective transit and highway solutions to meet Americans’ ever-changing travel demands,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.

As Americans drive fewer miles, less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund from gasoline and diesel sales—$0.184 per gallon and $0.244 per gallon, respectively. During the first quarter of 2008, motorists consumed nearly 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline, or about 1.3% less than during the same period in 2007, and 7% less—or 318 million gallons—of diesel.

America Gets New Glimpse of Hydrogen-Powered Future

August 11th kicked off the cross-country trek of a fleet of clean, efficient hydrogen vehicles. During this historic, two-week tour, Americans will have a unique opportunity to see what the future holds for clean, efficient hydrogen vehicles.

“Five years ago, President Bush challenged America’s innovators to develop new hydrogen technologies to help reduce our nation’s dependence on oil, and today we have a fleet of hydrogen vehicles making their way across the country,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary Thomas Barrett. “These hydrogen vehicles are the non-polluting cars of tomorrow and they are being demonstrated today on our nation’s roads.”

“The technology necessary to put these cars on the road, and keep them moving, exists today,” said Administrator Paul Brubaker of the U.S. DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). “The question is not if hydrogen-powered vehicles will be available commercially, but when.”

Brubaker noted that six transit agencies across the country currently operate hydrogen-powered buses, Southern California auto dealers are leasing hydrogen vehicles, and hundreds of individuals are driving hydrogen-powered vehicles in demonstration programs across the United States. And, he added, hydrogen can be used as a fuel for both a fuel-cell vehicle or in a modified internal combustion engine. In addition, Brubaker said, hydrogen produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, leaving behind only water as a by-product.

“Hydrogen is part of a balanced and diverse energy portfolio that will help address our future energy, environmental, and economic security needs,” Department of Energy Under Secretary Clarence "Bud" Albright Jr. said. “This tour provides Americans an opportunity to see what the future could hold for hydrogen-powered vehicles, as we work to help make these vehicles cost competitive and available for all.”

The tour will make 31 stops in 18 states, stretching from Maine to California. Hydrogen vehicles from BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen will be making the journey, and will be joined by hydrogen transit buses along the route. Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. and Linde are providing mobile refueling stations and hydrogen fuel.

U.S. Leads the World in Wind Power Production Says AWEA


The United States now leads the world in the amount of electricity it generates from wind energy, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The trade group's second-quarter market report, released on August 5, finds that the wind industry installed a total of 1,194 megawatts (MW) in the second quarter, bringing the total installed U.S. wind capacity to 19,549 MW. While that still lags behind the roughly 23,000 MW installed in Germany, the stronger winds in the United States are yielding greater power production despite the smaller generating capacity.

According to AWEA, U.S. wind power capacity is on track to increase by more than 45% this year, but the upcoming expiration of the federal production tax credit at the end of this year is threatening to slow this progress. The trade group also notes that over the past year and a half, at least 41 manufacturing facilities to support the wind industry have been announced, opened, or expanded in the United States, and those new and expanded facilities will create more than 9,000 jobs when they reach their full capacity..

While large utility-scale wind turbines capture most of the attention in the United States, small wind turbines designed for homes and businesses are also growing in popularity. According to a report released by AWEA in mid-July, the U.S. small wind turbine market grew by 14% in 2007, adding 9.7 MW of new wind power capacity. Defined as wind turbines with capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, and including turbines smaller than 1 kilowatt in capacity, the small wind power market currently lacks federal incentives, although some states offer incentives. Despite that handicap, more than 9,000 small wind turbines worth more than $42 million were installed in the United States in 2007, increasing the nation's total generating capacity from small wind turbines to roughly 60 MW. About 50 companies either manufacture or plan to manufacture small wind turbines in the United States.

Eco-Friendly Advice for Healthy Lawns and Greenscapes

Lush beautiful lawns are a part of summer, but they require time and money. The average lawn requires up to 40 hours of work and costs about $700 each year to maintain. But did you know that your yard and how you take care of it can help the environment?

A thick full lawn reduces soil erosion, filters contaminants from rainwater, and absorbs airborne pollutants like dust and soot. Grass is also great at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. The following are tips suggested by the EPA to help homeowners have yards that are beautiful and environmentally friendly.

To keep your lawn looking its best, set your mower height to 2½ to 3 ½ inches. Longer grass has more leaf surface, which enables the grass to take in more sunlight and develop a deeper root system, making your lawn more drought and insect resistant. Longer grass also helps soil retain moisture and cuts down on the need to water. Mow often, but never cut more than a third of the length.

According to a 2004 survey by the National Gardening Association, 66 million U.S. households used chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers on their lawns and gardens. But leaving grass clippings on your yard can reduce the need for these products. Grass clippings are about 90% water, will decompose quickly, and provide nourishment back to the soil. They save landfill space too. Between 20% and 40% of landfill space is taken up by yard waste. Landfills produce methane gas, which contributes to climate change.

Keeping your yard healthy requires good preventative care, starting with the soil. Lawns grow best in an intermediate soil that is a mix of clay, sand, and silt. You can always improve the quality of any type of soil by fertilizing. Instead of chemicals, add organic matter like compost, manure, or grass clippings to the soil for nourishment. If your soil is hard, compacted, or has a heavy clay presence, you may want to loosen or aerate the soil to allow water and nutrients to reach the grass and plant root systems.

Consider reducing the size of your lawn by Greenscaping, which makes use of native plant species as ground cover and provides a landscape that is more similar to natural habitats. Going natural can also reduce the need for chemicals, cut maintenance time and costs, while still providing a beautiful yard and positive benefits for the environment.

Planning your Greenscape can be creative and fun. For example, consider planting a wildflower meadow or use native perennials to provide color and ground cover near trees, patios, and fences. Consider allowing part of your lawn to revert to woods (occasional management to control invasive exotic plants might be necessary until the woodland matures).

Choose plants that are native to your region of the country. Your local nursery or County Agricultural Extension office can help you identify plants that will flourish in your area. Native plants require far less fertilization and are more resistant to insects, reducing the need for pesticides.

Gunderson LLC Fined $254,362 for Repeat Hazardous Waste Violations

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a penalty totaling $254,362 to Gunderson LLC and Gunderson Marine LLC, which operate a railcar and barge manufacturing plant in northwest Portland, for hazardous waste disposal, determination, and treatment violations. Many of the violations, discovered during DEQ inspections of the facility, were repeat violations of those originally documented at the same site in 1998 and 2003.

The largest part of the penalty, totaling $233,562, was for improper disposal of ignitable waste paint and paint containing the hazardous waste solvent toluene. DEQ determined that Gunderson had been disposing of these wastes in various solid waste containers on its property at 4350 NW Front Ave., instead of at a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility, from January 2004 to October 2006. DEQ also penalized Gunderson $12,800 for illegally treating hazardous waste. Specifically, Gunderson treated its ignitable waste paint and paint waste containing toluene in open containers, allowing a substantial amount of the volatile particles to escape into the air. DEQ penalized the company another $8,000 for failing to determine if the ignitable, epoxy paint waste and other generated paint wastes, used in the marine facility, were indeed hazardous.

In failing to dispose of its hazardous waste at a permitted facility, Gunderson avoided an estimated $217,562 in expenses, and DEQ considered that fact in computing the penalty. DEQ also recognized that Gunderson has made efforts to correct the violations and took these efforts into consideration when calculating the total penalty amount.

DEQ found numerous hazardous waste violations during its Oct. 12 and Oct. 16, 2006, inspections of the Gunderson facility on NW Front Avenue. Besides the three penalties cited above, DEQ discovered that the company failed to mark containers of hazardous waste with an accumulation start date; failed to keep containers of hazardous waste closed; and failed to submit a complete annual report documenting its hazardous waste management.

Improper management of hazardous waste is a serious environmental law violation because the hazardous waste can threaten public health and the environment. Oregon has adopted strict rules governing the accumulation, storage, handling, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste to reduce risk to the environment.

Gunderson has a lengthy environmental penalty record with the state:

  • On Jan. 23, 2008, DEQ issued a $5,143 penalty against Gunderson LLC for failing to collect wastewater monitoring data as part of its stormwater discharge permit. Gunderson paid the penalty in full on Feb. 19, 2008.
  • On Nov. 2, 2007, DEQ issued Gunderson LLC a $5,200 penalty for violating its Title V air quality permit by exceeding allowed emissions of a hazardous air pollutant at the plant. Gunderson paid the penalty in full on Dec. 4, 2007.
  • On Dec. 1, 2000, DEQ issued a $1,800 penalty against Gunderson Inc. for failing to renew its Title V air quality permit as scheduled. Gunderson paid the penalty in full on Jan. 18, 2001.
  • On July 10, 1998, DEQ issued an $11,750 penalty against Gunderson Inc. for numerous hazardous waste violations at the northwest Portland facility. The company appealed the penalty and ended up paying the state $9,850 on Sept. 22, 1998.

Gunderson has until Sept. 2, 2008 to appeal its latest penalty.

Oregon DEQ Announces Penalties Totaling $127,979

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced 17 penalties totaling $127,979 for July 2008. So far in 2008, DEQ has issued 136 penalties totaling $1,018,813. Compare that to the 119 penalties totaling $1.33 million for the same period a year ago. 

DEQ issued a $12,349 penalty to Johnson Crushers International Inc. (JCI), a Eugene-based manufacturer of heavy construction equipment, for hazardous waste disposal violations in Eugene over nearly a three-year period ending last fall.

The penalty stemmed from an October 2007 DEQ inspection of JCI’s manufacturing plant at 86470 Franklin Boulevard in Eugene. During the inspection, DEQ determined that JCI was illegally disposing of hazardous paint sludge from its manufacturing process into a solid waste dumpster. According to Oregon environmental law, commercially generated hazardous waste must be disposed of only at permitted hazardous waste facilities. Waste placed in solid waste dumpster bins typically go to local landfills. Improperly disposed hazardous wastes are more likely to escape and threaten the environment and human health than when they are properly contained, manifested, and shipped for treatment and disposal at a facility permitted and equipped to manage hazardous waste.

Through its inspection, DEQ noted that JCI had been illegally disposing of its waste paint and solvent distillation sludge since January 2005. Specifically, the company had disposed of approximately 250 gallons per calendar year (750 total gallons or 6,000 pounds). That waste had been sent to the local municipal landfill, which was not permitted to accept such waste.

JCI paid the penalty in full on August 12.

Man Faces Five Years in Prison for Burying Hazardous Waste

U.S. Attorney Rebecca A. Gregory announced that a 60-year-old Buna man has pleaded guilty to environmental crimes in the Eastern District of Texas.

Lyle Hester admitted to disposing of hazardous waste without a permit before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin. The offense is a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which criminalizes the storage, transportation, or disposal of hazardous wastes without a permit.

According to information presented in court, Lyle Hester was employed as the shop foreman for Simply Aquatics, Inc., owned by his son, Kevin Wayne Hester. In January 2007, investigators with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) executed a search warrant on Kevin Hester's residential and ranching property located on County Road 3065 in Kirbyville and discovered that both Lyle and Kevin Hester had buried 113 compressed gas cylinders on the property. It was determined during the investigation that 33 of the compressed gas cylinders were under high pressure and contained a combined total of 952 pounds of chlorine gas. Lyle and Kevin Hester were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 7, 2008.

Lyle Hester faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing date has not been set.

ACEEE Introduces a New State Energy Efficiency Policy Resource

. This site is the initial phase of ACEEE’s new State Energy Efficiency Policy, an ongoing project under the umbrella of ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Policy Activities. The site serves as an easy-to-use online database of energy-efficiency policies in the states, searchable by state or by policy. The database covers:

  • Appliance standards
  • Building codes
  • Clean distributed generation policies
  • Tax incentives
  • Vehicle policies
  • A host of utility-related energy efficiency information

The site currently covers information for most of the leading states. Ultimately, the site will cover policies for all states and will be expanded to also cover state climate policies and smart growth initiatives.

“States are increasingly adopting and implementing new energy policies as a result of high energy prices and increasing concern over global climate change,” ACEEE’s Executive Director Steven Nadel said. “ACEEE seeks to provide a comprehensive survey of existing state ‘best practices’ as a resource for policymakers, businesses, concerned citizens, and others in the energy-efficiency community.”

“This website builds on the extensive research regarding energy efficiency policies and programs for which ACEEE has become well known over the past 28 years,” said ACEEE’s project manager Sarah Black. “The database will serve as a portal to original ACEEE research as well as resources elsewhere on the Web. The unique resources include information on clean distributed generation policies and several utility policies, including energy-efficiency program funding and customer energy-efficiency programs.”

The complete version of the website will roll out in conjunction with the release of ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for 2007–2008 in the beginning of October. ACEEE anticipates updating information on the site on a quarterly basis as new policies emerge.

Environmental News Links

Trivia Question of the Week

According to EPA, the average house contributes how much to global warming as compared with the average car?

a. About half as much
b. About the same
c. About twice as much
d. About twenty times as much