U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, made the following remarks regarding President Bush’s proposed 2009 budget for the EPA.
“The EPA’s job is to protect the health of our families, but with this budget the President is once again sending a clear message that cleaning up our environment is not a priority for the Bush Administration.”
The budget proposes severe reductions in several key programs for protecting our health, cutting air and water pollution, and restoring the environment. The following are a few examples of the cuts the President has proposed:
- Reducing Protections for Clean Water. More than $270 million in cuts to programs that help local governments clean up sewage and protect rivers, streams, and lakes from pollution, and for other local water projects.
- Cutting Funding for Addressing Toxic Sites. Cuts about $4 million in funding for hazardous substance Superfund enforcement, $4.3 million in cuts for Superfund investigations and audits, and nearly $5 million in cuts for Superfund remedial actions. Since 2001, the annual pace of cleanups has declined by 50%, from roughly 80 per year to 40—only 24 cleanups were completed last year.
- Cutting Polluted Runoff Controls. Cuts more than $16 million in state grants to control polluted runoff (non-point source pollution).
- Slashing Key Global Warming Efforts. Eliminates funding for the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Registry, a $3.4 million cut that would undermine the government’s ability to track global warming pollution. Also cuts $7 million (38%) from programs that seek to use science and technology to address global warming.
- Weakening Efforts to Protect Air Quality. Cuts $31 million funding from state and local Air Quality Management Grants, which help address air pollution across the country.
- Cutting Protection for Border Communities. Cuts $9.7 million (nearly 50%) from the program that helps U.S. communities along the Mexican border address water contamination and other pollution.
- Eliminating Funding for a Key California Air Pollution Program. Zeroes out more than $9.8 million in funding for California Emission Reduction programs, which address serious air problems in San Joaquin and South Coast communities.
- Cutting Efforts to Control Hormone-Disrupting Toxics. Cuts $3.6 million (35%) from efforts to help protect people from endocrine disruptors, dangerous chemicals that can harm human health at very low levels by interfering with the body’s hormone systems.
- Eliminating Funding for San Francisco Bay Restoration. Cuts more than $4.9 million from the San Francisco Bay cleanup and restoration program.
- Slashing Funding for Environmental Justice Enforcement. Cuts $2.6 million (40%) from EPA’s efforts to promote environmental justice through enforcement.
These figures are based upon summary tables provided by EPA. Normally, EPA provides a detailed “Budget Justification” document with an explanation of all budget figures, but this information has not been provided this year.
New Defense Authorization Act to Boost Clean Energy Use
President Bush signed the Defense Authorization Act on January 28, providing funding for the Department of Defense (DoD), while also boosting the U.S. military’s use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Section 828 of the act allows the DoD to enter into long-term contracts, lasting up to 10 years, for electricity from renewable energy sources. Section 2863 requires energy-efficient lighting in any building that DoD builds or significantly alters. It also requires DoD to install energy-efficient light bulbs when replacing lights during normal maintenance.
More Renewable Fuel Headed for Your Tank
EPA has announced that it is raising the 2008 renewable fuels standard (RFS), which determines how much non-petroleum fuel will power your vehicle, to 7.76%. The move is in response to the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which President Bush signed in December 2007.
Last November, EPA announced a RFS of 4.66%, based on previous law, that mandated at least 5.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the nation’s transportation fuels this year. However, EPA is now increasing the standard to 7.76% to comply with the new minimum of 9.0 billion gallons of renewable fuel that EISA requires.
EISA increases the overall volume of renewable fuels that must be blended each year, reaching 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA annually calculates the percentage-based standard, which applies to refiners, importers, and non-oxygenate blenders of gasoline.
Based on the standard, each of these parties determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must use. The RFS program creates new markets for farm products, increases energy security, and promotes the development of advanced technologies that would expand the production of renewable fuels.
$1.255 Billion Requested for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for FY 2009
When President Bush unveiled his proposed federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2009, it included $25 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE). The budget requests $1.255 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which is essentially equal to the President’s budget request for FY 2008 but about 18% lower than the actual FY 2008 funding (not counting congressionally directed funds).
Compared to the FY 2008 appropriations, the proposed budget boosts funding for geothermal energy by 51% to provide for field demonstrations of enhanced geothermal systems technologies. The budget also provides a 13.5% funding increase for research and development relating to biomass and biorefinery systems, a similar funding increase for efficient building technologies, and nearly level funding for the Federal Energy Management Program, vehicle technologies, industrial technologies, and wind energy. The budget proposal cuts hydrogen and fuel cell technologies by 69%, deferring hydrogen production research to focus instead on hydrogen storage and fuel-cell technologies that are needed to develop a practical fuel cell vehicle by 2015.
The budget increases funding for state energy programs by 13% and proposes $7.5 million in new funding for the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. It eliminates funding for Weatherization Assistance Grants, arguing that the energy-efficiency retrofit program for low-income households has failed to catalyze broader solutions for the tens of millions of eligible homes that have never received retrofits. It also eliminates the Renewable Energy Production Incentive, which has become less effective as renewable energy technologies have become competitive and as limited funds have been distributed to a growing pool of eligible applicants.
The proposed budget includes $3.2 billion for the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative, a 28% increase, and $225 million for the President’s Solar America Initiative, with $156 million in the EERE budget and $69 million in the budget for DOE’s Office of Science. It also requests $19.9 million for the administrative expenses of DOE’s new loan guarantee program, while requesting an extension of its authorization to issue loans through FY 2010 and 2011. The FY 2007 appropriations act authorized $38.5 billion in loan guarantees, including $10 billion for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and distributed energy generation, but gave DOE only two fiscal years to issue the loan guarantees.
EPA Calculator Puts Greenhouse Gas Savings in Everyday Terms
Can you picture what it means to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 1 million metric tons? News stories are packed with measurements of greenhouse gas reductions, but it can be difficult to understand them until now. EPA’s new Greenhouse Gas Calculator helps you turn greenhouse gas savings into more easily understood everyday terms.
The calculator converts greenhouse gas-related savings estimates, typically presented in “million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents,” into familiar terms such as the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from:
- Driving a particular number of cars for a year.
- Using a particular amount of gasoline or barrels of oil.
- Using a particular number of tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline.
- Providing energy to a particular number of homes for a year.
- Growing trees across a particular number of acres for a year.
- Recycling a particular quantity of waste instead of sending it to the landfill.
- Generating electricity from a particular number of coal-fired power plants for a year.
Users can enter savings in emissions, electricity consumption, gallons of gasoline, or number of vehicles into the calculator and determine up to 13 different ways to express the magnitude of the savings. The calculator uses the latest emission factors, approaches, and statistics available through 2007.
As an example, if a typical household switched all its incandescent light bulbs to Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs; it would save about 75% of the lighting electricity use, or about 1,463 kWh a year. After five years, these energy savings are equivalent to:
- Saving about 10,289 pounds of CO2 emissions.
- Conserving 530 gallons of gasoline.
- Saving 11 barrels of oil.
- Planting 120 tree seedlings.
- Recycling 1.6 tons of waste.
MIT and Texas Instruments Announce the Development of Energy-Efficient Microchip
Researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments (TI) have unveiled a new microchip design for portable electronics that can be up to ten times more energy-efficient than present technology. The design could lead to cell phones, implantable medical devices, and sensors that last far longer when running from a battery.
The innovative design was presented February 5 at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco, Calif. The development team demonstrated the ultra-low power design techniques on TI’s MSP430, a widely used microcontroller.
The key to the improvement in energy efficiency was to find ways of making the circuits on the chip work at a voltage level much lower than usual, it was explained. While most current chips operate at around 1 volt, the new design works at just 0.3 volts.
Reducing the operating voltage, however, is not as simple as it might sound, because existing microchips have been optimized for many years to operate at the higher standard voltage level. For the new chip to function, memory and logic circuits have to be redesigned to operate at very low power supply voltages as well.
One key to the new design was to build a DC-to-DC converter—which reduces the voltage to the lower level—right onto the same chip, which is more efficient than having the converter as a separate component. The redesigned memory and logic, along with the DC-to-DC converter, are all integrated to realize a complete system-on-a-chip solution.
So far, the new chip is a proof of concept. Commercial applications could become available in five years in a number of exciting areas. For example, portable and implantable medical devices, portable communications devices, and networking devices could be based on such chips, and thus have greatly increased operating times. There also may be a variety of military applications in the production of tiny, self-contained sensor networks that could be dispersed in a battlefield.
In some applications, such as implantable medical devices, the goal is to make the power requirements so low that they could be powered by “ambient energy,” such as using the body’s own heat or movement to provide it with the necessary power. In addition, the technology could be suitable for body area networks or wirelessly enabled body sensor networks.
“Together, TI and MIT have pioneered many advances that lower power in electronic devices, and we are proud to be part of this revolutionary, world-class university research,” said Dr. Dennis Buss, chief scientist at Texas Instruments. “These design techniques show great potential for TI future low-power IC products and applications including wireless terminals, RFID, battery-operated instrumentation, sensor networks, medical electronics, and many others.”
The research was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Clean Up of More Than 11 Tons of Toxins at One of the Nation’s Most Contaminated Sites
EPA and Shell Oil Company have removed more than 23,000 pounds of hazardous toxins from the Del Amo Superfund Site Waste Pits near Torrance, Calif.
With EPA oversight, responsible parties Shell Oil Company and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) built a soil vapor extraction system at the Del Amo Waste Pits and have been successfully operating it for one year. The system stops further contamination of area groundwater, a potential drinking water resource.
“A common challenge for a project of this nature is how to extract harmful toxins in a safe and effective manner,” said Keith Takata, Superfund Division director for the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “EPA worked with its partners to select an approach that utilizes natural bacteria in the ground to destroy the contamination. This is an excellent example of how the EPA collaborates with local and state agencies, as well as community groups, to achieve a common goal of protecting human health and the environment.”
The site’s soil treatment system uses a vacuum to extract vapors from the ground. The majority of the extracted vapors are re-injected underground with the addition of oxygen—enabling natural bacteria underground to flourish and consume the contamination. The remaining extracted vapors are sent through a carbon filtration system and cleansed before being discharged into the air. To date, the treatment system has removed more than 23,000 pounds of contaminants.
Throughout the cleanup, the EPA has worked closely with California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to protect area residents. During the early process of identifying and evaluating the best vapor treatment options, EPA officials collaborated with many public interest groups including: the Del Amo Action Committee, California Communities Against Toxics, the Sierra Club, the Los Angeles County Health Department, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The area at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard was used as an industrial dump site for a World War II era synthetic rubber plant. After the war, the government sold the facility to Shell, who continued to operate the plant until 1972. Toxic waste—including benzene, naphthalene, and ethyl benzene—contaminated the underlying soil and groundwater.
The EPA will continue to oversee cleanup efforts at the waste pits area, which are expected to take approximately 10–15 years.
Citizens Sue State of Michigan to Regulate Carbon Dioxide From Coal Plants
A Michigan citizen’s group is suing the state in an effort to force the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions when considering proposed coal-fired power plants.
Citizens for Environmental Inquiry, based in Presque Isle, Mich., says the law defines carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The group has been fighting a proposed coal plant near Rogers City, Mich.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responds that neither state nor federal law requires carbon dioxide to be regulated at this point.
The state is waiting for direction from federal EPA before deciding whether to continue with carbon dioxide rules.
Michigan DEQ has received five air permit applications for proposed coal-fired plants in Michigan.
The suit was filed in Ingham County.
Atlantic Richfield Company Agrees to Pay $187 Million for Montana Superfund Cleanup
The Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) has agreed to pay $187 million to finance a major cleanup along 120 miles of the Clark Fork River and other areas in southwestern Montana, the Justice Department and EPA announced last week.
The State of Montana is a party to settlement and will be the lead government agency conducting the cleanup using settlement funds. Decades of mining activity upstream in Butte and Anaconda has contaminated the sediment, banks, and floodplain of the Clark Fork with heavy metals that harm plant and animal life in the river and along its shores.
Up to $103.7 million from the settlement will be available to finance various remedial actions along the river between Warm Springs, Mont., and Missoula. The work will include extensive revegetation of stream banks and removal of areas devoid of vegetation contaminated with mine tailings. Contingency plans in the settlement provide for additional funds if necessary. An additional $7.6 million from the settlement will reimburse the federal government for past response costs and $3.35 million will compensate for natural resource damages at the historic Grant Kohrs Ranch managed by the National Park Service.
“This settlement brings to a close prolonged litigation over these large Superfund Sites in the Clark Fork Basin,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “All parties can now focus on finalizing settlements and completing the Basin cleanup as quickly as possible.”
“This is an excellent example of a federal and state partnership working toward our common goal of a clean and healthy Montana,” said Kurt Alme, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.
“The environmental benefits will go directly to local landowners with improved soil and extend to all Montanans through cleaner water and improved fisheries.” said Robbie Roberts, EPA’s Regional Administrator from Denver.
As part of the settlement, the State of Montana is resolving its natural resource damage claims against ARCO at the Clark Fork River Site as well as sites in Butte and Anaconda for a payment of $72.5 million, which the state will use to finance additional natural resource restoration activities along and upstream of the river.
The consent decree filed on February 7 in U.S. District Court in Butte, Mont., is subject to a 60-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
Washington State Department of Ecology Fines Everett Pulp Mill $235,000 for Fuel-Pile Smoke Emissions
The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Kimberly-Clark’s Everett mill $235,000 for allowing a wood-fuel stockpile in Everett to smolder for months last year, causing odor problems in the city’s northeastern neighborhoods.
Smoke and odors from the fire prompted citizen complaints to Ecology on 15 days, between Sep. 27, 2007, and Nov. 15, 2007.
“We expect Kimberly-Clark to operate as a good neighbor at all times,” said Carol Kraege, supervisor of Ecology’s Industrial Section, which oversees the state’s major pulp mills. “We recognize that the company faced an unusual situation. The circumstances made it all the more necessary to take extra steps to prevent odors that affected whole neighborhoods, especially during calm weather.”
The company stores the material, known as “hogged fuel,” at an industrial property east of the Riverside neighborhood. The fuel is used to produce steam that powers one of the mill’s generators. Mechanical problems closed the generator between June 21 and September 21, 2007. During this time hogged fuel deliveries to the Riverside yard continued, and the pile reached an unusually large size.
“We again apologize to residents in the area who were affected by the smoky odors coming from the fuel pile at the Riverside site,” said Everett Mill Manager Chris Isenberg. “We strive to be a good corporate citizen and once the magnitude of the problem was identified, we acted promptly to eliminate the odors caused by flare-ups in the fuel pile. As Ecology points out, this was an unusual situation. We worked in concert with Ecology and appropriate state and local agencies to put in a new management plan, so a situation like this does not occur in the future.”
Large hogged fuel stockpiles can get hot enough to start burning. To prevent this, earth-moving equipment shifts the material around to prevent hot spots from developing deep inside. The Everett mill’s hogged fuel pile size became so large that the facility was unable to keep it sufficiently turned over, and the fire is believed to have ignited sometime in July.
Water can cool the pile and help prevent it from starting to burn. A hydrant at the Riverside yard lacked a part necessary for its operation during the summer, leaving the facility without water. Once the pile ignites, water speeds decomposition, which heats and ignites more material, producing more smoke. The Everett mill managed the pile to minimize smoke by covering burning areas to reduce air flow to the fire.
When the generator was repaired and returned to service, the Everett mill operated it at full capacity to reduce the hogged fuel stockpile to a more manageable size. The stockpile reduction began in late October.
Ecology issued a Notice of Violation to Kimberly-Clark on October 29, warning the company that it was violating air quality laws by emitting odors that interfered with the rights of others to use and enjoy their property.
The company may appeal the penalty to Ecology or to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.
EPA Fines Animal Products Distributor $56,200 for Pesticide Violations
The EPA has fined Veterinary Service, Inc., a Modesto, Calif., company, $56,200 for selling its California-registered pesticide outside the state, a violation of federal pesticide law.
The pesticide, Tomcat Ground Squirrel and Gopher Bait, was registered specifically for use in California, and didn’t go through the full registration process required for federally registered pesticides. As a result, the EPA did not have the opportunity to review the product for its potentially adverse affects on the environment, prior to its distribution and use.
“The label clearly indicated that this product was only meant for distribution and use in the state of California,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Pesticide distributors and retailers must ensure that they do not sell pesticides outside of a state that has been granted a special registration.”
The illegal product was initially found during a routine inspection by the Nevada Department of Agriculture at Fernley Hay and Grain, a garden supply and feed store in Fernley, Nev. The store selling the product was fined $3,120. The discovery led to a further investigation by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, which uncovered sales of the product by VSI to additional stores in Nevada and Arizona.
VSI has voluntarily recalled the product that was distributed outside of California and is complying with federal pesticide laws.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires federal registration of pesticide products and proper labeling to protect public health and the environment. FIFRA allows states to issue “Special Local Needs” registrations to address pest problems specific to that state. Each producer, seller, and distributor is required, pursuant to federal law, to ensure that these state-specific pesticides are distributed only in that state.
Lafarge Fined $20,000 for Discharge of Cement Dust
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) penalized Lafarge, North America, $20,000 for air quality violations involving the widespread discharge of cement dust over a section of Charlestown, Mass., on a fall afternoon in 2006. As a preventive measure, MassDEP is also requiring the Maryland-based company to install better monitoring and control technology at its cement storage and distribution facility in Charlestown.
Dry cement is typically received at this commercial cement storage and distribution facility via ocean barges and stored in one of eight silos. On Sept. 28, 2006, however, the cement delivery system became clogged and over-pressurized, and an air pollution control device known as a “baghouse” failed. The resulting dry cement powder release—a violation of the state’s air pollution control regulations—covered a wide swath of property including approximately 200 Boston school buses and 300 new automobiles parked in storage nearby.
A number of school bus drivers were taken to area hospitals due to respiratory distress caused by the cement dust fallout and students were stranded at school for hours. A nearby residential neighborhood was also impacted with the dust. The cost and responsibility for the cleanup was borne by the company.
“Any manufacturer, commercial venture, or bulk storage facility—especially if it operates near a residential area—has got to be proactive in terms of safety, making sure the proper controls are in place in order to head-off accidents before they occur,” said Richard Chalpin, director of MassDEP’s Northeast Office in Wilmington. “Waiting to have a problem erupt before addressing it is the wrong approach.”
After the incident, and during the investigation by MassDEP, Lafarge agreed to implement certain short-term measures to prevent a similar event. A more long-term solution has now been agreed upon, in which Lafarge is required to install and operate an automatic “fail-safe” electronic interlock system at the facility that will stop the transfer of dry cement product in the event that the system becomes clogged or over-pressurized.
Curtiss-Wright Controls Fined $15,000 for Hazardous Waste Management Violations
Curtiss-Wright Controls, Inc., of Littleton, Mass., which manufactures power system control modules for tanks and planes, has been assessed a $15,000 penalty by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for violating Hazardous Waste Management regulations.
During an inspection conducted by MassDEP personnel in December 2006, the company was found to be accumulating hazardous waste longer than allowed under its registered status, had treated small amounts of hazardous waste, and failed to comply with other hazardous waste management requirements.
In a recently finalized consent order, the company agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty. An additional $5,000 penalty has been suspended pending the successful development and implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) for the company’s operations.
“An EMS sets the framework to ensure the company will pay close attention to environmental regulations and maintain compliance,” said Lee Dillard Adams, deputy director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.
EPA Orders Scrap Metal Company to Comply With Stormwater Discharge Requirements
On February 6, the EPA ordered a San Jose, Calif., scrap material company to immediately comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA) at two of its facilities.
EPA inspected two American Metal and Iron facilities in October and December 2007. During the inspections, the EPA discovered that one facility failed to comply with California’s general industrial stormwater permit and the second facility discharged industrial stormwater without the required permit. Polluted stormwater runs off these two facilities and into the collection system where it runs into Coyote Creek and eventually into the San Francisco Bay.
“Companies such as America Metal are responsible for managing their operations to protect our waterways from industrial runoff,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA Water Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. “To protect Coyote Creek and the San Francisco Bay, American Metal and Iron needs to comply with the Clean Water Act and promptly take the steps needed to protect San Francisco Bay from pollution.”
Under the order, the company is required to immediately apply for a discharge permit at its Commercial Court location; comply with its current discharge permit at its Berryessa Road facility; and at both facilities, the company must minimize and prevent the discharge of pollutants into the San Francisco Bay or any other body of water; submit a stormwater pollution prevention plan and stormwater monitoring plan; cover and contain outdoor equipment, maintenance, and fueling areas; and clean up specific areas.
Failure to comply with the EPA order could bring penalties against the company for as much as $32,500 per day per violation.
Polluted runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in the San Francisco Bay. Stormwater runoff can carry pollutants from industrial source metals, oil and grease, acidic wastewater, bacteria, trash, and other toxic pollutants into nearby water sources. The EPA requires industrial facilities to prevent water pollution by complying with federal and state water pollution requirements.
Cowiche Growers in Washington State Fined More Than $17,000 for CAA Violations
EPA announced that Cowiche Growers, Inc. (CGI) has agreed to pay $17,538 for alleged federal Clean Air Act (CAA) emergency prevention and planning violations.
As part of the settlement, CGI has corrected all alleged violations, agreed to pay the penalty, and spend at least $43,615 on implementing two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) within the next six months. One of the SEPs involves the installation of new equipment that will store the company’s anhydrous ammonia in a safer and more secure location. The other SEP involves the purchase of communications equipment for Yakima Fire District No. 1 that serves the cities of Cowiche and Tieton.
CGI owns and operates a cold storage warehouse in Cowiche, Wash., where it utilizes more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. At that level of use, section 112(r) of the CAA requires CGI to implement a Risk Management Program (RMP) at the facility.
Based on an inspection of CGI in June 2006, EPA found the facility’s prevention program to be insufficient. EPA was particularly concerned about the lack of:
- Safety information pertaining to the hazards of ammonia
- Procedures for identifying, evaluating, and controlling hazards involved in the cold storage process
- Sufficient operating procedures and operator training
- Documentation regarding process equipment maintenance
Following the inspection, CGI has worked diligently towards coming into compliance.
"The RMP program is designed to protect public health and the environment by ideally preventing releases or, in the event there is an unavoidable accidental release, by lessoning those effects through effective emergency response planning,” said Kelly Huynh, EPA’s RMP Coordinator in Seattle. “CGI’s program needed more attention to achieve those goals.”
The CAA, Section 112(r), requires the development of a Risk Management Program and submittal of Risk Management Plans for all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle greater than a threshold amount of a regulated substance(s). Toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, are covered by the program.
The Risk Management Program requires, but is not limited to, the development of an emergency response or action plan; 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.
Montana Gold and Sapphires, Inc. Resolves Wastewater Permit Fee Case
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently closed its enforcement action against Montana Gold and Sapphires, Inc. (MGS) for the failure to pay wastewater discharge permit fees.
The DEQ issued a permit to MGS to discharge wastewater from its suction dredge activities into the Missouri River near Helena, Mont. The company signed a consent order in 2005 in which it agreed to pay $2,860 in past-due permit fees, late fees, and interest. After the company failed to make payments, the DEQ filed a complaint in district court seeking additional past due fees and a penalty for violating the consent order. The DEQ received a $15,914 payment in January 2008 for past due fees and closed its enforcement case.
Two Wetland Violators Sentenced to Jail Time
Chippewa County Michigan’s District Court Judge Michael W. MacDonald recently accepted a guilty plea and sentenced two individuals to serve five days in jail and pay a fine of $2,500 plus $155 in court costs and fees in connection with illegal dredging and filling of state-regulated wetlands. The defendants, Michael Edward Coon and Michael Donald Lucchesi, pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of Michigan’s wetlands protection law as a result of their driving off-road vehicles through valuable Great Lakes coastal wetland areas on Drummond Island, destroying much of the wetland vegetation and disturbing the habitats of nesting Ospreys and other wildlife.
In addition to serving jail time, Judge MacDonald ordered the defendants to file with the court a plan to restore the impacted wetland areas to their original condition in accordance with DEQ requirements and to have the wetland restoration plan completed by no later than June 30, 2008.
This resolution is the result of the coordinated efforts between the DEQ, Department of Natural Resources, and the Office of Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Peppler. These combined efforts resulted in the quick resolution of this case and ensuring that the coastal wetland area will be restored.
“It is critical that we protect our Great Lakes coastal wetland areas that provide a unique and valuable ecological habitat for Michigan’s fish and wildlife,” said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester. “We appreciate the support of the local community in helping to resolve this case and protect our environment.”
Judge MacDonald additionally required the defendants to provide a letter to the residents of Drummond Island through the local newspaper regarding the violation and terms of their sentence.
Oil Spill Preparedness Project Reduces Vermont Company’s CWA Penalty
Fred’s Plumbing & Heating, Inc., a petroleum storage and distribution facility in Derby, Vt., will pay $21,250 in penalties and provide $14,000 for local oil spill equipment and response training following Clean Water Act (CWA) violations discovered by both the EPA and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC).
On Feb. 27, 2007, approximately 5,000 gallons of gasoline was released from an above ground 25,000-gallon double-compartment storage tank at the company’s plant located on Route 5 in Derby. VTDEC emergency responders observed that gasoline had flowed beyond the containment surrounding the tank and had contaminated soil and ground water on the property. Since then, VTDEC has continued to oversee cleanup activities, including monitoring a nearby stream and a neighboring drinking water well.
Facilities storing oil above specific amounts are required to take certain measures to ensure that a tank failure or accidental spill does not lead to oil contamination of surface waters, such as rivers or streams, which could harm human and ecological health.
After an inspection of the Derby facility, both EPA and VTDEC found that the company also failed to construct sufficiently impervious secondary containment for its oil storage containers, loading rack, and other fuel transfer areas.
“Oil spills can severely impact the environment, including surface waters and drinking water supplies,” said Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA will continue to ensure that facilities handling oils follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills.”
The penalties to resolve this Clean Water violation were lessened by the company’s willingness to fund a “Supplemental Environmental Project,” under which $14,000 will go to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) District No. 10, to boost local oil spill response capabilities. These funds will help the LEPC provide up-to-date oil spill training techniques and equipment for local responders. FP&H has been responsive to EPA’s inspection and has agreed to comply with SPCC regulations and update its SPCC plan.
ADEQ Enters Into Consent Order With Camp Verde Sanitary District for Wastewater Treatment Problems
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens announced on February 7 that ADEQ and the Camp Verde Sanitary District have entered into a consent order to address issues with the Yavapai County wastewater treatment system.
The sanitary district began construction on its collection system on Dec. 20, 2007, without obtaining an Aquifer Protection Permit. ADEQ issued a compliance order on December 31 requiring all construction to stop until the district received authorization from the agency. The district filed an application for construction authorization on Jan. 2, 2008.
In reviewing the sanitary district’s application, ADEQ found engineering design deficiencies in including the proposed use of a 16-inch force main line beneath the Verde River, which does not meet minimum velocity requirements. The use of such a line could lead to wastewater overflows and unacceptable levels of sewage odors.
“This consent order will stabilize the Camp Verde Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment planning and help the District come into—and stay in—compliance with the law,” Director Owens said. “We are working closely with the district to fix the sewer lines and ensure that the wastewater treatment system is built correctly. We recognize the challenges the district faces in trying to put a large commercial area on the sewer, and we intend to help the board members work through those issues.”
The consent order requires the sanitary district to file an application within 120 days that will address construction of an upgrade to the sewer district’s lift pumps at its Main Street Pump Station to ensure the minimum velocity requirements in all of its 16-inch force main lines. The compliance schedule also requires the sanitary district to install all necessary pumps within 180 days and to submit an application for discharge authorization with ADEQ.
Additionally, the consent order requires that the sanitary district file a plan of operation for the 16-inch force main beneath the Verde within 30 days, including flushing the main weekly.
If the sanitary district violates the consent order, it could be fined up to $4,000 a day for each violation.
EPA Approves Permit for Beeland Group
U.S. EPA Region 5 has approved a permit for Beeland Group LLC, Jackson, Mich., to construct and operate a deep injection well in Alba, Mich. The permit only allows the disposal of nonhazardous liquid waste.
“EPA understands that people are concerned about the safety of underground injection wells,” said Tinka Hyde, Acting EPA Water Division Director. “The agency has carefully reviewed Beeland’s permit application, supporting technical information, and public comments and has determined that the well can operate safely and will not harm sources of drinking water or the Jordan River.”
Beeland Group plans to use the well to dispose of treated wastewater from an ongoing cleanup of a former cement kiln site at Bay Harbor, Mich., along Little Traverse Bay. The waste will be injected deep underground, more than 1,000 feet below the closest source of drinking water. Similar disposal wells operate elsewhere in Antrim County and are used to dispose of brine from oil and gas production.
EPA Settlement With GSA in the U.S. Virgin Islands Sheds Light on Need to Recycle Fluorescent Bulbs
Most of us don’t think twice about the fluorescent lights over our heads at work, but the issue of how the bulbs are thrown out and how they can be recycled took center stage in the recent resolution of an EPA complaint against the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). While fluorescent bulbs may seem harmless, they contain mercury and can be harmful to people and the environment if improperly discarded.
“Fluorescent lights are super efficient—up to 80% more than incandescent bulbs—which is great for the environment, but they do have to be handled properly once they burn out,” said EPA Regional Administrator, Alan J. Steinberg. “Most people don’t realize that every time they toss a fluorescent bulb into the regular trash, they are releasing mercury into the environment. Though these bulbs only contain a very small amount of mercury, it can add up fast. That’s why I am so pleased that GSA has agreed to make sure that fluorescent bulbs from buildings that it owns and operates in the VI and throughout their Caribbean and Northeast region are recycled.”
GSA is a federal procurement and property management agency created to improve government efficiency and help federal agencies better serve the public. In the settlement announced February 6, GSA agreed to complete arrangements within one year to recycle the various kinds of mercury- and other toxic metal-containing bulbs used in all of the more than 50 buildings, including buildings that house EPA offices, which GSA manages for U.S. government agencies in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, northern New Jersey, and New York. Currently available recycling systems can capture up to 99% of the mercury in these bulbs and the mercury can be reused in new bulbs. GSA will also pay a $23,000 penalty for the violations.
Other types of light bulbs, including high-intensity discharge (HID), neon, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, compact fluorescent and metal halide lamps, can also contain mercury, lead, and cadmium. EPA regulations require that non-green tip spent mercury- and other toxic metal-containing bulbs from business, industry, and government be handled as hazardous waste or under the simpler universal waste rules to prevent the release of mercury and other toxins into the environment. The universal waste regulations streamline collection requirements for certain hazardous wastes in the following categories: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats), and lamps (e.g.,fluorescent bulbs).
While EPA recommends that even green-tip spent bulbs be recycled because they do contain less but some mercury, some states have stricter requirements and may require that even green-tip spent bulbs be handled as a hazardous waste.
Once it’s released into the environment, mercury will repeatedly cycle through the land, water, and air. When airborne, it can be deposited on soil and water bodies, settle in sediments and, ultimately, be consumed by and stored in the fat reserves of living organisms. An unfortunate example of this problem is the prevalence of fish advisories resulting from mercury contamination.
Virginia Joins Federal Clean Energy Program
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah are already working with EPA to develop and carry out comprehensive strategies for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.
This partnership aims to improve air quality and the environment, while reducing energy costs and helping states achieve their economic goals. The 16 partner states represent 55% of the U.S. population and energy consumption, and nearly 50% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the Partnership Program, launched in February 2005, partner states agree to develop and implement a state-specific Clean Energy-Environment State Action Plan that contains one or more clean energy-environment goals. Virginia will harness the power of the partnership to advance the goals of their recently released energy plan.
EPA provides partner states with access to a comprehensive assistance package of planning, policy, technical, analytical, and information resources, and works to establish connections to other federal programs that support clean energy-environment strategies. Partners also benefit by learning from the federal government and other states about successful programs and policies at work, like Energy Star. EPA recognizes these states as environmental and clean energy leaders, commending them for the environmental benefits that result from their efforts. This work helps states plan to meet their energy policy goals and implement energy efficiency programs.
New England Water Utilities Can Reduce Costs With Improved Energy Management
Reducing climate impacts, saving money, and saving water—these are the goals of projects and programs being developed by EPA and state partners as the nexus between energy use and water use.
EPA and professional water and wastewater partners have developed a useful new guidance to help facility managers better confront the serious challenges related to rising energy costs. The guidance, “Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities,” will help utilities systematically assess their current energy costs and practices, set measurable performance improvement goals, and monitor and measure their progress over time.
EPA also will hold a workshop on March 6 in Lowell, Mass., where New England water professionals can learn more about how to incorporate energy efficiency into the operations of water treatment facilities.
Steadily rising energy costs and associated environmental effects have made energy use one of the most pressing challenges facing water utilities. Energy management is also at the heart of efforts across the industry to ensure that water and wastewater systems are operated in a sustainable way.
“Integrating energy-efficient practices into the daily management and long-term planning of the water sector will help reduce operating costs, freeing valuable resources for other priorities,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.
The guidance follows the successful Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology embodied in environmental management systems and other utility management tools. It was developed with the help of utilities that are successfully confronting their own energy challenges using this approach. It will serve as a step-by-step guide to help utilities systematically manage their energy programs over time.
Eight Communities in Southeastern States Reduce Smog Ahead of Schedule
Three areas in Tennessee, three areas in North Carolina, and two areas in South Carolina are among the 13 areas in the nation that EPA plans to designate as attaining the 1997 8-hour ozone standard under Early Action Compact agreements. EPA is proposing this action because each of the areas has demonstrated that they attained the standard by Dec. 31, 2007.
Early Action Compacts give certain local areas the flexibility to develop their own approach to meeting the 8-hour ozone standard, provided the communities control emissions from local sources earlier than the Clean Air Act would otherwise require. For areas that do not meet the ozone standard, attainment dates range from 2009–2021, depending upon the severity of the ozone problem.
The areas in these three states that have attained the 8-hour ozone standard for the Early Action Compacts are:
- Chattanooga area, Tenn.
- Nashville area, Tenn.
- Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol area, Tenn.
- Hickory area, N.C.
- Greensboro area, N.C.
- Fayetteville, N.C.
- Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, S.C.
- Columbia area, S.C.
EPA has been working with these areas to reduce ground-level ozone, or smog, as quickly as possible. Together with EPA, these communities entered into agreements called Early Action Compacts. The Early Action Compacts program has provided a strong incentive for state and local governments, civic leaders, and business to develop innovative, cost-effective strategies for improving ozone air quality that are tailored to individual communities.
By reducing pollution ahead of schedule, these communities are bringing sustainable health and environmental improvements to their residents sooner than would have been achieved without these agreements.
EPA Funds Programs in Ohio and Michigan to Raise Awareness of Environmental Health Risks to Women
The EPA has given $97,204 to the Ohio Department of Health and $117,747 to the Michigan Inter-Tribal Council, Sault Ste. Marie, to educate health care providers and women of child-bearing age on environmental health risks.
The EPA grants will focus on environmental health issues that could affect women and their unborn children, including exposure to mercury, lead, environmental tobacco smoke, chemicals, pesticides, drinking water contaminants, and indoor and outdoor air contaminants. The information will be communicated directly to women, including Native American women, of child-bearing age. EPA recently awarded more than $500,000 in similar grants nationwide.
“We’re giving pregnant women information on how to avoid exposure to certain environmental hazards to give children a healthy start to life,” said Dona Deleon, acting director, EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education. “These grants help the public health community reach women during this important time in their lives.”
Pregnancy is a time for joy and celebration, but it is also a time to be especially careful about the environment in which one works and lives. There is a relationship between the mother’s environment and the health of the developing fetus. Various behaviors and experiences are associated with adverse health outcomes for both the mother and infant. These experiences can occur before, during, and after pregnancy.
The grants are projected to reach approximately 3,000 health care providers and 10,000 women of child-bearing age nationwide.
EPA Regulates Lead in Children’s Products
EPA will review the submitted health and safety data and will consult with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to address any lead-containing product concerns. The final rule is codified at 40 CFR 716.
Gulf Guardian Awards Program Now Accepting Applications
The EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program is currently soliciting entries for the 2008 Gulf Guardian Awards Program. The entry deadline is May 1, 2008. Winners will be announced in the fall, and the awards ceremony will be held during the month of December 2008. This is the ninth year for the awards program, which was started to honor businesses, industries, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, individuals, and partnerships, which are striving to make an environmental difference in the Gulf of Mexico. A first-, second-, and third-place award is given in seven different categories.
Stop & Shop Enters Partnership to Help Fight Climate Change
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company of Quincy, Mass., announced joining the SmartWay Transport® Partnership, a collaboration with the federal government to save an estimated 33 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions annually by 2012.
In joining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership program, Stop & Shop commits to voluntary targets for increasing the energy and fuel efficiency of its fleet. One of the Northeast’s largest grocery chains, Stop & Shop announced the partnership at a news conference February 7 with EPA, New England. The partnership is part of Stop & Shop and its sister company, Giant Food’s, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, thus reducing its carbon footprint. EPA is also recognizing both companies as ENERGY STAR Leaders for improvements in the energy efficiency of their buildings
“2008 will be the year that corporate America rises to the challenge to do its part to act against global climate change,” said Jose Alvarez, CEO of Stop & Shop and Giant. “This is the right thing for us to do because we are serious about leaving a lasting legacy—a healthy planet—to our children and grandchildren.”
Alvarez said that food transportation between distribution centers and stores is a vital and necessary component of its operations. “Conserving energy and improving energy efficiency will allow us to lower operating costs, which in turn permits us to pass savings on to customers and to keep prices low,” he said.
In the Northeast, heavy-duty trucks contribute 40% of NOx and 30% of particulate matter emissions generated by the transportation sector, two pollutants with serious health and environmental impacts. With 165 trucks that travel more than 17 million miles per year, Stop & Shop has already instituted a number of efficiencies, resulting in a fuel economy average 22% greater than most truck fleets and saving more than 8,000 tons of CO2, 46 tons of NOx, and one ton of particulate matter per year, according to EPA calculations.
Specific technologies that Stop & Shop is using to improve fuel efficiency include automatic engine shutdown to reduce idling, cab roof fairings and reduced cab/trailer gap to reduce wind resistance, advanced lubricants to reduce drive-train friction losses, and longer trailers to carry more product in one trip.
In addition, Stop & Shop trains drivers in ways to shift efficiently and avoid idling. It also uses on-board computer data to provide their truck drivers with feedback on their fuel efficiency. Drivers have responded by significantly improving their miles per gallon and reducing idle time.
“Stop & Shop’s leadership on the trucking side of its operations provides a great model for New England companies looking to improve their environmental performance overall and to help the region achieve ambient air quality standards, while thriving economically,” said EPA Regional Administrator Bob Varney.
Companies join the SmartWay Transport Partnership for a three-year period and begin by analyzing the efficiency of their operations using special software. EPA helps partners set individualized goals for fuel saving and emission reductions and selects from a wide variety of technology and procedural strategies to meet those goals while saving money. Partners benchmark their operations, track their savings, and report yearly to EPA.
Stop & Shop is piloting additional strategies to further improve their SmartWay efficiency score, including using single-wide tires to reduce rolling resistance and automatic tire-inflation systems.
Stop & Shop will continue to explore other technologies and strategies to reduce fuel use and emissions as part of their SmartWay Transport Partnership. Stop& Shop is one of a few supermarket chains across the country to achieve recognition by EPA both as a SmartWay Transport Partner and an ENERGY STAR Leader, and it is the only New England company to achieve the latter recognition in 2007. The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, based in Quincy, Mass., and its sister company, Giant Food, of Landover, Md., employ more than 82,000 associates and operate 575 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.
Through the SmartWay, EPA is now working with more than 650 businesses to improve both their bottom line and the environment by offering technical assistance, tools for evaluating opportunities to lower fuel use and emissions, and help in locating financing for the purchase of fuel-saving equipment and technology.
EPA Recognizes Stop & Shop and Giant Food; Only Supermarkets Receiving 2007 ENERGY STAR Leaders Recognition
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, LLC, which includes Stop & Shop stores in New England, New York, and New Jersey, and Giant Food stores in the Mid-Atlantic, is now recognized as an Energy Star Leader. Stop & Shop is the only company in New England to earn the Leaders recognition in 2007, and Stop & Shop and Giant are the only supermarket chain in the country earning this recognition.
“Stop & Shop is leading the charge to improve energy efficiency across the region,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA New England. “Better energy efficiency is good for the environment and good for a company’s bottom line. We hope other companies in New England will follow this terrific example.”
Based in Quincy, Mass., the supermarket chain is one of 16 organizations across the nation to receive the award this year in recognition of improvements to building energy performance. Notably, Stop & Shop and Giant have a rating of 90 (out of possible 100) across a portfolio of 552 buildings.
Energy Star Leaders are an elite group of organizations that manage energy strategically across an entire portfolio of buildings using EPA’s standardized measurement tool for tracking building energy use. These select organizations are recognized by the agency for improving the energy performance of their portfolio by 10% or more. The highest leaders recognition identifies those organizations with portfolios that perform in the top 25% of energy efficiency nationwide, based upon the average of the buildings in the portfolio. Stop & Shop is receiving recognition for the superior energy performance of this group of supermarkets.
Energy efficiency measures at this location included: skylights and natural lighting in stores, high-efficiency T5 lighting, refrigeration systems with variable-speed compressors and low-energy glass doors, occupancy sensors, and reflective, insulation roofing.
Great Lakes Cleanup Would Give $50 Billion Lift to Economy
According to a recent report commissioned by a coalition of business and environmental organizations and conducted by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, Restoring the Great Lakes—controlling invasive species, addressing sewage contamination, cleaning up toxic waste, and restoring shoreline—would create $50 billion in economic benefit from a $26 billion cleanup investment.
The $26 billion Great Lakes restoration effort would:
- Modernize wastewater treatment systems to reduce sewage
- Curb and address current and future invasive species
- Restore wildlife habitat
- Remove contaminated sediment
The report, “Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem,” was commissioned by Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, the Council of Great Lakes Industries and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Buchsbaum is co-chair of the Healing Our Waters group.
In the short-term, the $26 billion project would be an immediate economic boost. But even after the work is done, there would be an additional projected $24 billion in economic gain in increased property values, more tourism, and improved recreational and commercial fishing.
For example, the cleanup would address the untreated and industrial waste that now pours into the lakes and results in beach closings and advisories. A