EPA To Seek Comment On Two Approaches To Classify Ozone Nonattainment Areas

October 24, 2003

On Oct. 16, 2003, EPA posted a pre-publication copy of a Federal Register notice that will seek public comment on additional approaches for classifying nonattainment areas for the 8-hour ozone standard. Upon publication, there will be a 15-day public comment period. Nonattainment classifications reflect the severity of an area's ozone problem, establish requirements that nonattainment areas need to meet, and set deadlines for areas to meet the ozone standard. EPA is also considering its original proposals for classifying nonattainment areas. For additional information on the proposed implementation of the 8-hour ozone standard, go to http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/ramain.html. For additional information on ozone designations, go to http://www.epa.gov/air/oaqps/glo/designations/index.htm.

Model Year 2004 Fuel Economy Numbers Now Available

Americans looking to buy a 2004 model car can choose one that gets as much as 60 miles per gallon (mpg) or one that gets only 9 mpg. To help consumers make good environmental choices when purchasing passenger vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have released the 29th annual Fuel Economy Guide.

"Well-informed consumers are key to energy conservation and environmental protection, said Acting Administrator Marianne Horinko. "With this fuel economy information, Americans can choose the vehicle that's right for them with a good understanding of its environmental impact, its fuel consumption, and its costs."

"Drivers who purchase fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles are doing their part to protect the environment, conserve resources and reduce our dependence on imported oil," Energy Department Secretary Spencer Abraham said.

For the fourth year in a row, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicles continue to be the fuel economy leaders. And for the first time, a hybrid-electric vehicle is available as a mid-size sedan, the Toyota Prius. In addition to being fuel-efficient, these vehicles are also among the cleanest vehicles available.

A joint EPA and Department of Energy Web site, http://www.fueleconomy.gov, provides detailed information on vehicle fuel economy, including a complete version of the Fuel Economy Guide. The site includes fuel economy information going back to 1985, which can be helpful for buying used cars. The Web site also includes emissions and the Department of Transportation's safety data for model year 2004 vehicles as well as fuel-saving tips for drivers. The "2004 Fuel Economy Guide" will be available at car dealerships, public libraries and credit unions later this fall.

Fuel economy estimates are determined by averaging numbers gathered through tests conducted by manufacturers and verified by EPA. Vehicles are tested in a controlled setting and the results are adjusted to reflect actual driving conditions. All vehicles are tested in the same way so consumers can compare the results when choosing a vehicle type or class. The mpg ratings appear on window stickers on all new cars and light trucks prior to sale. Consumers can use this information to identify the most fuel efficient vehicles to purchase.

EPA has also posted the 2004 models on the Green Vehicle Guide Web site to give consumers a full picture of fuel economy and automobile emissions. Consumers can use this guide to locate the cleanest and most fuel efficient vehicle that meets their needs. To access this guide, visit http://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles.

EPA Fines Nassau Health Care Corporation For Violating Hazardous Health Waste Regulations

EPA announced that it will seek $279,900 in penalties from the Nassau Health Care Corporation Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, New York for violating numerous requirements of the federal and New York State hazardous waste regulations. The medical research, diagnostic and treatment facility must comply with all hazardous waste management requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

"Hazardous waste regulations help to ensure that facilities like Nassau Health do not release toxic chemicals into the environment and protect workers, patients and visitors at the hospital," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "Many toxic compounds easily contaminate air, ground or water and exposure can cause or aggravate many illnesses. Though there were no releases in this case, it is essential that companies with hazardous chemicals in their waste follow EPA and state regulations very carefully to ensure that they don't endanger people or the environment."

The discovery of violations at Nassau Health grew out of EPA inspections of the facility this past winter. These violations included storage or abandonment of several types of solid waste and chemicals, and failure to determine whether or not they were hazardous wastes. In addition, the hospital did not have a permit to store hazardous waste, and did not meet the protective management requirements needed to be exempt from a permit. Hazardous waste containers were not identified with the required markings or inspected regularly; emergency response agencies were not notified of hazardous waste being stored; and the hospital did not minimize the possibility of fire, explosion or unplanned release of hazardous substances into the environment. Finally, a number of hospital personnel responsible for hazardous waste management were not trained in how to handle it, and no hazardous waste emergency response plan was in place. Since the inspection, Nassau Health has been correcting the violations. The company has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

Nassau Health could have avoided this enforcement action by taking advantage of EPA's Hospitals and Healthcare Initiative. EPA Region 2 started the Hospital and Healthcare Initiative in the fall of 2002 to help hospitals and healthcare facilities comply with environmental regulations as part of a larger EPA Voluntary Audit Policy. The Agency established the policy to encourage prompt disclosure and correction of environmental violations, safeguarding human health and the environment. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or failed to implement effective compliance strategies. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to 480 facilities in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and held free workshops to help hospitals comply. In addition, the Agency established a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law, and warned hospitals that EPA inspections of their facilities - with risk of financial penalties - were imminent.

Hospitals can take advantage of the Agency's Voluntary Audit Policy, through which they can investigate and disclose environmental violations to EPA and, as a compliance incentive, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties. To date, eleven hospitals have entered into voluntary self-audit disclosure agreements with EPA.

More information about hazardous waste regulations can be found on EPA's website at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/index.htm.

EPA to Hold Five National Dialogues for Public Comment on the "Draft Report on the Environment"

EPA's Office of Environmental Information, Office of Research and Development and EPA' regional offices will conduct five national dialogue sessions with stakeholders to solicit feedback on the "Draft Report on the Environment," issued June 23, 2003. This report is the first national picture of U.S. environmental conditions and health across five key areas: air, water, land, human health and ecosystems. EPA will invite representatives from federal, state and local government, tribes, academia, non-governmental organizations and private industry. Interested citizens will have an opportunity to provide comments during each meeting. The five sessions will be held: Nov. 6, 2003 - Chicago - Region 5; Nov. 13, 2003 - Atlanta - Region 4; Nov. 18, 2003 - San Francisco - Region 9; Nov. 20, 2003 - Seattle - Region 10; and Dec. 12, 2003 - Dallas - Region 6. For more information, see the Federal Register notice (October 15, 2003). To obtain a copy of the report or to submit comments online, go to EPA's Indicators website at http://www.epa.gov/indicators/.

EPA Proposes to Promote Recycling of Hazardous Waste

A proposed change to federal hazardous waste management regulations that could significantly increase the recovery of metals, solvents and other usable materials was announced by EPA. This action, which reaffirms EPA's long-standing policy of promoting materials reuse and recovery over land disposal, could make it easier to possibly recycle more than one million tons of hazardous waste annually, and encourage recovery of valuable materials worth an estimated one billion dollars yearly.

"By reclaiming reusable metals, solvents and other valuable materials from wastes, we can reduce natural resource and water use and conserve energy," said EPA Acting Administrator Marianne Lamont Horinko. "Today's proposal is an outgrowth of EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge, which aims to increase recycling and reduce harmful chemicals in the environment."

Hazardous waste includes residue from industrial processes, such as used solvents, metal-containing sludge and dust collected in air pollution equipment.

EPA believes that the industry categories mainly affected by the proposal will be inorganic chemicals, plastic materials and resins, pharmaceutical preparations, cyclic crudes (acids, dyes, and pigments), intermediates (specialty chemicals), industrial organic chemicals, nonferrous metals (such as lead), plating and polishing, and printed circuit boards.

The proposed changes represent potential savings of $178 million a year in waste management and recycling costs at more than 1,700 plants nationwide.

Specifically, EPA proposes to exclude from hazardous waste regulation those materials that are recycled in a continuous process within the same industry. (A continuous process is one with no momentary stoppage, and in which, unlike regular recycling, the company reclaiming or recovering the material has to be the same one that generated it.) If these materials are released to the environment, however, the existing hazardous waste regulations will apply and EPA will use all appropriate enforcement authorities to control them. In addition, the proposal does not change the Agency's current regulations or authority over the following types of hazardous recyclable materials: (1) those recycled by a commercial or third-party reclaimer who is not within the same industry; (2) those placed on the land for beneficial use; (3) those burned for energy recovery; and (4) those considered inherently waste-like, such as certain dioxin-containing wastes.

The Agency and its state partners also believe that now is an opportune time to clarify the definition of "legitimate recycling" under the hazardous waste recycling regulations. The proposed amendment specifies four general criteria for distinguishing legitimate hazardous waste recycling from improper recycling:

The material must be managed as a valuable commodity. (In the context of the proposal, EPA considers a commodity "valuable" if it can be reclaimed or recycled.) The material must provide a useful contribution to the recycling process or to a product of the recycling process. The recycling process must yield a valuable product or intermediate that is sold or used under specific conditions. The product of the recycling process must not contain significant amounts of hazardous constituents.

The proposal will appear soon in the Federal Register, with a 90-day public comment period. More information is available from the RCRA Call Center at 1-800-424-9346 or TDD 1-800-553-7672. Complete details are available at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/dsw/abr.htm