New EPA Administrator’s First Statement

January 26, 2009

The statement was issued on Jan. 23, 2009.

Administrator Jackson stated, “I am honored by the confidence and faith President Obama and the Senate have reposed in me to lead the EPA in confronting the environmental challenges currently before us. As Administrator, I will ensure EPA’s efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency. By keeping faith with these values and unleashing innovative, forward-thinking approaches—we can further protect neighborhoods and communities throughout the country.”

Ray H. LaHood Becomes the 16th U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Ray H. LaHood became the 16th U.S. Secretary of Transportation on Jan. 23, 2009. LaHood was joined for an official swearing-in ceremony in his new office by his wife Kathy, son Sam, and fellow Illinoisan and Assistant Majority Leader, U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin. The oath of office was administered by Linda Washington, Assistant Secretary for Administration, and took place before an audience of his new staff and members of the Department of Transportation transition team.

The full Senate confirmed LaHood by voice vote on January 22, following his being reported out of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee just the day before. A ceremonial swearing-in will be scheduled at a later date.

EPA Excludes Propylene Carbonate and Dimethyl Carbonate From the VOC Definition

. This revision adds the compounds propylene carbonate and dimethyl carbonate to the list of compounds excluded from the definition of VOC on the basis that they make a negligible contribution to tropospheric ozone formation.

This final rule affects 40 CFR 51 and has an effective date of Feb. 20, 2009.

EPA Region 6 Seeks Comment on CAFO Permit

EPA Region 6 is proposing a general permit regulating concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) located on State lands in New Mexico. 

This National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit is required by the Clean Water Act if pollutants will be discharged or proposed to be discharged from CAFOs into our nation’s waterways. These permits spell out the types of allowable discharges and are written to protect public health and the environment.

The proposed CAFO general permit continues many requirements already in place including nutrient management plans, manure and wastewater storage design, and waste storage closure provisions. It also incorporates new requirements established in 2008.

EPA will continue its extensive coordination with the CAFO industry, New Mexico regulatory agencies, tribal and local governments, environmental groups, and other interested parties to ensure that the permit will be both effective and viable.

Comments must be submitted in writing to EPA on or before Feb. 20, 2009. 

EPA Has a New SmartWay Logo for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Driving a vehicle that is fuel efficient produces fewer greenhouse gases and can save you money. Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle also reflects well on its owner—especially these days with growing concerns about climate change. 

“Most Americans know they can find energy-efficient products if they look for the blue Energy Star,” said EPA’s regional Air Protection Division Director Judith M. Katz. “Now, EPA wants to make it easier for you to identify environmentally friendlier cars and trucks too.”

The national campaign features broadcast, radio, and print public service announcements to help consumers buy smart by looking for the SmartWay logo on cars and trucks when shopping for a new or used vehicle. Nearly 20% of all vehicles are fuel efficient enough to be SmartWay-certified.

EPA Announces Change in Application Requirements for CARE Grants

EPA’s Community Action for a Renewed Environment () grant program supports community-based solutions to environmental problems. Local governments and community groups eligible to apply for funding from the CARE grant program are being alerted to a significant change in the 2009 grant application process.

As recently announced by EPA Headquarters, an amendment to the 2009 application process has reduced the acceptable Narrative Proposal page limit to 13 pages, which includes a title page and budget information. The previous limit was 20 pages.

The change is important for governments and community groups to note, as the application deadline for 2009 CARE Cooperative Agreement Requests for Proposals (RFPs) is March 16. Applicants who submit Narrative Proposals longer than 13 pages will still be eligible for consideration, but any pages beyond 13 will not be considered. Certain other materials, such as resumes and letters of support, can be included as attachments to the RFPs and are not excluded by the new 13-page limit.

EPA plans to award approximately $3 million in CARE grants during 2009. CARE is a competitive grant program that offers communities an innovative way to address the risks from multiple sources of toxic pollution in their environment. Through CARE, various local organizations—including nonprofits, businesses, schools, and governments—create partnerships that identify local environmental problems and then implement community-based approaches toward solving them.

Atlantic Richfield Agrees to $8 Million Settlement for Cleanup at Leviathan Mine Superfund Site

EPA has announced that the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARC) has agreed to treat acid mine drainage and resolve other liabilities at a cost of more than $8 million at the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site in Alpine County, Calif., near the California-Nevada border.

Under the settlement, ARC will treat acid mine drainage for five years—at a cost the EPA estimates at $5.6 million. In addition, the company will reimburse the EPA for $1.7 million in past cleanup costs, pay $90,000 in penalties for failing to comply with an EPA order issued in 2000, and spend $400,000 on a riparian restoration project at the River Fork Ranch on the Carson River, near Genoa, Nev.

EPA Proposes More Than $100,000 in Penalties for BRC Rubber and Plastics for Clean Air Violations

EPA Region 5 has filed an administrative complaint against BRC Rubber and Plastics Inc. for alleged clean air violations at the company’s automotive parts manufacturing and coating plant in Montpelier, Ind.

EPA alleges that the BRC plant emitted excessive amounts of organic hazardous air pollutants in violation of federal regulations and its state operating permit. EPA has proposed a $109,784 penalty.

BRC has 30 days from receipt of the complaint to file an answer and request a hearing. BRC may request an informal conference with EPA at any time to discuss resolving the allegations.

Hazardous air pollutants may cause serious health effects including birth defects and cancer. They also may cause harmful environmental and ecological effects.

EPA Orders California Port Tenants to Prevent Chemicals and Trash in Stormwater Runoff

EPA has ordered four tenants at California’s Port of Stockton to comply with federal Clean Water Act stormwater regulations. Industrial materials such as fuel, oil, and debris are carried by stormwater from these facilities, which discharge directly into the San Joaquin River, and through municipal storm drains running to the river. The San Joaquin River is classified as an impaired waterway.

These orders require each tenant to fix violations found during the March 2008 inspections, including on-the-ground corrective measures.

The EPA has issued orders to the following Port of Stockton tenants:

  • A-Plus Materials Recycling
  • Alco Iron and Metal Company
  • Macsteel Service Centers
  • Posdef Power Co. LP

Through its Ports initiative, the EPA’s Pacific Southwest regional office is evaluating stormwater management at various ports. This effort involves both individual inspections of port tenants and audits of the municipal storm water programs implemented by the ports. The initiative aims to improve water quality by working with facilities to bring them into compliance and collaborating with states to improve stormwater permits for ports.

Ports contain a variety of facilities, including container terminals, boat repair shops, and industries related to the transportation of goods. Many of these industries are subject to stormwater requirements. Due to their close proximity to our nation’s waterways, port industries’ compliance with stormwater requirements has been identified as an emerging national enforcement priority area.

Railroad Fined for Fuel and Oil Spill

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) fined Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) $52,500 for a spill that resulted when two trains collided in May 2007, spilling hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel and lube oil. The spill contaminated groundwater downhill from the crash site.

A Federal Rail Administration report cited probable engineer fatigue and failure to comply with a warning light ahead of the Nisqually crossover as factors in the crash. Ecology considers the lack of attention to the warning signal “negligence” and increased the penalty accordingly.

Gateway Regional Medical Center to Pay More Than $50,000 for SARA Title III Violations

EPA Region 5 recently settled with Gateway Regional Medical Center on hazardous chemical reporting violations at its Granite City, Ill., facility. Under the SARA Title III law, facilities are required to make specific notification to state and local authorities regarding the hazardous chemical inventory stored at the facility. In the event of a fire or emergency, responders need to know what they are dealing with so they can take steps to protect people living or working in the area.

Gateway Regional Medical Center has paid a fine of $12,900 and agreed to perform a supplemental environmental project costing $38,899 to resolve an EPA complaint for failure to submit to state and local authorities the required chemical inventory forms. The facility exceeded the reporting threshold for fuel oil by 21 times. The fuel oil is used in backup power generation equipment.

The environmental project will include purchasing and donating response equipment to the Madison County HAZMAT Team and the Granite City Fire Department.

United States Gypsum Co. to Pay $44,000 for Wastewater Discharge Violations

United States Gypsum Co. has agreed to a $44,000 settlement with Ohio EPA for wastewater discharge violations at its facility in Ottawa County, Ohio. The company also has agreed to make numerous improvements to its wastewater treatment system, which discharges to Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie.

Multiple inspections by Ohio EPA found significant operational problems with the wastewater treatment system and chronic violations of its discharge permit. At Ohio EPA’s request, the company conducted an engineering study to determine treatment inadequacies and propose improvements. Ohio EPA agreed with the study’s recommendations.

United States Gypsum manufactures paper-based building products including joint tape, joint treatment, stucco, and other gypsum fiber products. The settlement covers violations that occurred between June 2000 and September 2006. United States Gypsum has been in compliance with discharge limits since October 2006.

Of the cash penalty, $35,200 will be used to administer Ohio EPA’s surface water programs and benefit the Ohio Environmental Education Fund. The remaining $8,800 will be paid to Ohio EPA’s Clean Diesel School Bus Retrofit Fund.

Universal Plating, Inc., to Pay Ohio EPA $40,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

Universal Plating, Inc., agreed to pay Ohio EPA a $40,000 penalty to settle past hazardous waste violations at its electroplating business in Akron, Ohio. The company has addressed the violations and now operates in compliance with Ohio’s hazardous waste laws.

Following a facility inspection in January 2006, Ohio EPA cited Universal Plating with numerous violations including: storing hazardous wastes without a permit; failing to determine whether wastes generated at the facility were hazardous; and failing to properly label and keep closed hazardous waste containers.

Ohio EPA did not observe any releases of hazardous waste but conducted a follow-up inspection one month later to observe sampling of waste streams generated at the facility. In addition, the hazardous waste discovered on-site was shipped to a permitted hazardous waste facility.

Universal Plating performs electroplating services, including zinc plating on carbon steel. The facility generates hazardous wastes including zinc/cyanide plating solution, spent chromic acid and strip tank solutions, and wastewater treatment sludge.

The penalty includes $32,000 to Ohio’s hazardous waste cleanup fund and $8,000 to Ohio EPA’s clean diesel school bus program.

Trident Seafoods Fined $25,500 for Salmon Bay Oil Spills

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Trident Seafoods Corporation (Trident) $25,500 for two spills from the same vessel to the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle in 2008.

The crab-fishing vessel Billikin released 230 gallons of diesel fuel to the water on June 6, 2008, during a fuel transfer between on-board tanks. The vessel was preparing for a return to service after a three-year layup. A gauge to monitor the level in the receiving tank gave a false reading, and the tank overflowed. Ecology investigators determined that the equipment, having been out of service for a long period of time, should have been checked and serviced before it was put back in use.

On June 17, 2008, while moored at a fueling dock, the Billikin released half a gallon of diesel fuel to the water during another fuel transfer between on-board tanks. In this case, Ecology investigators found that improperly labeled control valves misled the crew into filling the wrong tank, which caused the overflow.

Trident has embarked on a series of safety and spill-prevention reforms within its 42-vessel fleet, prompted both by Ecology and the Coast Guard, and the company’s own initiatives. Among the changes made or under way:

  • Pre-boom all vessels while moored in Washington, and close all openings that allow water to drain off deck while at sea but can contain spills in port.
  • Manage the fleet through measures including: annual reviews of oil transfer procedures, weekly checks of fuel and hydraulic systems, and annual updates of fuel and hydraulic system diagrams and valve labels.
  • Place permanent containment on as many fuel tank vents as possible, and minimize the length of hydraulic hose exposed to weather on deck.


Pennsylvania DEP Fines County Landfill Inc. $20,000 for Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has assessed a civil penalty of $20,000 against the now closed County Landfill in Farmington Township, for violating Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act. County Landfill stopped accepting waste in June 2008 and has since begun closing activities.

The largest number of violations stemmed from the facility’s failure to control off-site odors. Other violations were noted for incompletely documenting and investigating odor complaints. Those odor violations occurred in March, April, and August 2008.

The company was also cited for failing to dispose of waste foundry sand and for two spills that released liquid waste, or leachate, from the landfill into the ground.

The waste foundry sand was deposited into the landfill in March 2008 and, unlike previously disposed loads, the lead concentration was slightly above the hazardous waste threshold. Lab results confirming the elevated lead concentration were not available until after the sand was disposed. DEP has agreed that the foundry sand can remain at the landfill.

The leachate spills occurred in July and August when workers dismantled some of the landfill equipment. Soil impacted by the spills was removed and properly disposed. DEP has not observed any impact to surface water or groundwater as a result of the spills.

The $20,000 penalty has been deposited into the Solid Waste Abatement Fund, which finances cleanups of illegal dumps and other public health hazards.

New Jersey’s DEP Fines Environmental Transport Group Inc. $15,000 Due to Leaking Drum of Isopropanol

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Environmental Transport Group Inc. of Flanders, N.J., $15,000 after police discovered a leaking drum of hazardous waste on one of its tractor trailers in the summer of 2008.

“The Pennsylvania State Police stopped a tractor trailer because of odors coming from the trailer and a leaking load,” DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said. “An investigation by DEP found a small hole near the bottom of a drum containing Isopropanol.”

Isopropanol, commonly used as an industrial solvent, is a characteristic hazardous waste because of its ignitability.

The tractor trailer was transported to a hazardous waste contractor near Milesburg, Centre County, where a patch made of cardboard and tape was found on the floor of the trailer next to the leaking drum. The leaking drum was over-packed and placed back on the trailer for transportation to a hazardous waste recycling facility in Ohio.

“Environmental Transport Group Inc. should have inspected the load prior to transporting it as required,” Yowell said. “If they had done so, they would have prevented this hazardous waste release. This was an irresponsible decision that could have had significant environmental consequences.”

The company’s actions violated numerous provisions of the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act. DEP cited Environmental Transport Group for failing to:

  • Manage a hazardous waste properly
  • Comply with applicable state rules and regulations
  • Utilize a proper container when transporting hazardous waste
  • Implement a contingency plan
  • Take immediate steps to contain the hazardous waste leak

Environmental Transport Group Inc. will pay the fine in three installments. The money will go to the commonwealth’s Solid Waste Abatement Fund, which is used to help pay for clean-up projects across the state.

Four New England Developers Pay Fines for Water Violations

Four New England site operators have agreed to pay fines for violations of federal regulations designed to prevent pollution from stormwater runoff at construction and industrial sites. In separate actions, EPA alleged the operators in Goshen, Hudson, and Swansea, Mass., and Dover, N.H., failed to properly control erosion at construction sites and a sand-and-gravel pit, resulting in sediment and other pollutants entering waterways. Construction sites disturbing one acre of soil or more and sand and gravel operations that may discharge to a water body are required to obtain permit coverage; in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the permit is administered by the U.S. EPA.

The fines have been assessed as follows:

  • Accufab Ironworks has agreed to a $3,000 fine for failing to have a discharge permit and failing to effectively control sediments washing off of the construction site at their facility in Goshen, Mass.
  • Chestnut Farms Development Corporation, of Marlborough, Mass., agreed to a $3,350 penalty for inadequate erosion control at the Lauren Heights Development in Hudson, Mass.
  • Frank Donaldson agreed to a $6,050 penalty for failure to properly implement and maintain erosion controls at a residential construction site in Swansea, Mass.
  • Severino Trucking Co. Inc. and the City of Dover, N.H., have both agreed to share responsibility and a fine of $8,100 for creating a berm that resulted in the discharge of stormwater from Dover’s sand and gravel operation into the Bellamy River without obtaining the proper permit.

Rainwater running off construction sites and sand and gravel operations can carry sediments, oil, and various other pollutants into nearby streams, ponds, and rivers. Sediments reduce the storage capacity of drains and waterways, causing flooding, and adversely affect water quality and fish habitat. Sediments and chemicals can also contribute to fish die-offs, toxic algae blooms, contaminated shellfish beds, and closed swimming beaches.

Pennsylvania DEP Fines Total Environmental Solutions Inc. for Raw Sewage Discharge

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Total Environmental Solutions Inc. $3,000 for a raw sewage bypass last summer from the company’s sewage treatment plant in Sandy Township, Pa.

“This raw sewage discharge caused significant pollution in an unnamed tributary of Gravel Lick Run for about one-half mile,” Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said. “It was caused by a lack of maintenance and accumulated debris that combined to obstruct the sewer line.”

Total Environmental Solutions discovered the problem on July 16 and reported it to DEP that day. A subsequent DEP investigation determined that an unknown amount of raw sewage had overflowed from a manhole and entered the unnamed tributary to Gravel Lick Run.

Since July, Total Environmental Solutions has secured high-risk manholes, begun a manhole inspection program, and improved flow monitoring at its treatment plants to better detect unexpected flow changes or abnormalities.

The fine was paid to the Clean Water Fund, which is used to help pay for cleanups across the state.

Charter School Fined for Asbestos Violations

EPA has settled with the Noah Webster Basic School for alleged violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act. In April 2007, EPA inspectors discovered the Mesa, Ariz., school had not been inspected to determine if asbestos-containing materials were present in the school’s buildings and had not created an asbestos management plan.

The school has since completed inspections performed by accredited inspectors. No asbestos was found at the school, and necessary actions have since been taken to comply with the law by developing an asbestos management plan. The school was assessed a $2,400 fine for the violations, which was offset by the expense of coming into compliance.

Schools that do not contain asbestos-containing material must still develop a management plan, which would identify the designated person and include the architect’s statement or building inspection and the annual notification to parents, teachers, and employees regarding the plan’s availability.

The EPA’s rules also require the school to appoint a designated person who is trained to oversee asbestos activities and ensure compliance with federal regulations. Finally, schools must conduct periodic surveillance and re-inspections, properly train the maintenance and custodial staff, and maintain records in the management plan.

Local education agencies must keep an updated copy of the management plan in its administrative office and at the school. The plan must be made available for inspection by parents, teachers, and the general public.

U.S. Energy Information Administration Reports on Renewable Energy Consumption

 Americans used renewable energy sources—water (hydroelectric), geothermal, wind, sun (solar), and biomass—to meet about 7% of our total energy needs in 2007.

Main points that are covered in the report about our renewable energy consumption include:

  • Most renewable energy goes to producing electricity
  • The United States is second to China in renewable electricity production
  • The share of renewable-generated electricity in the United States is expected to grow
  • Why we don’t use more renewable energy
  • Policies such as tax credits, targets, and markets aim to increase the use of renewable energy


New Manual on Low Impact Development

A new manual describing Low Impact Development (LID) techniques is now available. LID techniques described in the manual include basic principles modeled after nature to protect the environment and manage storm water runoff for land development in Michigan. 

The manual includes approximately 500 pages of technical and policy guidance for implementing LID specific to Michigan’s climate, geology, and native plant species. Valuable assistance and input to develop the manual were provided by a committee of statewide experts in storm water control and LID.

LID addresses storm water control through small, cost-effective landscape features located at the site level instead of large, costly, end-of-pipe facilities located at the bottom of drainage areas. LID attempts to control storm water runoff as if the development never occurred, through techniques that infiltrate, filter, store, evaporate, and detain runoff close to its source.

The benefits of LID go well beyond storm water management. Incorporating LID enhances community character, assists in restoring urban fisheries and meeting regulatory obligations, protects sensitive habitat, and integrates developments into local greenways initiatives.

 The brochures are targeted toward developers, local units of government, and homeowners. They provide each user group with basic LID information to increase the general knowledge about the extensive benefits of using LID techniques on every new development or redevelopment project.

California’s ARB Asks EPA to Reconsider Denial of Waiver to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Cars

“We feel strongly that under its new leadership, EPA will recognize that the decision made by the former Administrator to deny California the waiver to enforce our clean car law was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways,” Nichols said.

If EPA grants the waiver, California, and 13 other states will begin programs to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles 30% by 2016.

The letter points out that the decision by the previous EPA administrator improperly evaluated California’s need for greenhouse gas standards in complete isolation without also considering the context of California’s complete motor vehicle emission control program. The letter also indicates that California believes the EPA can reconsider its decision in a manner that fulfills its public notice and comment obligations without undue delay. This is because the issues to be reconsidered are limited in scope, and there has already been extensive comment input by stakeholders and the public on the waiver request.

The regulations in question were developed under California’s 2002 landmark vehicle greenhouse gas emissions reduction law AB 1493. ARB adopted the regulations in 2005.

In 2005, ARB requested a waiver from the EPA to enforce the regulation, as required under the Clean Air Act. Despite the fact that no waiver had ever been denied over a 40-year-period, the then Administrator of the EPA sent Governor Schwarzenegger a letter in December 2007, indicating that he had denied the waiver.

On March 6, 2008, the waiver denial was formally issued in the Federal Register. Governor Schwarzenegger and several other states immediately filed suit against the federal government to reverse that decision.

To date, 13 states have also adopted, and 3 others are in the process of adopting, those same regulations. Together, California and these 16 states constitute close to half of the nation’s new vehicle sales.

The letter also indicates that since all manufacturers can already comply with California’s 2009 model-year greenhouse gas fleet average under the regulations, all manufacturers would obtain credits for future years. This would allow the regulations to be implemented as planned using the model-year 2009 to 2016 timetable.

The reductions achieved by AB 1493 constitute an important element of California’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020 under its landmark global warming bill, AB 32. ARB approved the Scoping Plan in December 2008. It is the nation’s first comprehensive approach to address climate change that draws upon every sector of the state’s economy.

N.Y. DEC Encouraging the Update of the State Bottle Bill

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis has urged support of the “Bigger Better Bottle Bill,” saying it would reduce litter, keep million of containers out of landfills, help in the fight against global warming, and generate badly needed revenue.

“As Governor Paterson has made clear, New York is facing a staggering budget deficit and must make many hard choices. But updating New York’s 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them,” Grannis said. “Expanding the law to cover non-carbonated beverages such as fruit juice, water, and sports drinks is long overdue.”

Since the original Bottle Bill was enacted in 1982 requiring a five-cent deposit on beer and carbonated drinks, roadside litter has been reduced 70%. More than 90 billion containers and 6 million tons of glass, aluminum, and plastic have been recycled, resulting in saving more than 50 million barrels of oil and eliminating 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases—a sum equal to getting 600,000 cars off the road for one year.

Grannis noted that a flaw in the current law is that the five-cent deposit applies only to beer and carbonated beverages. In his 2009–2010 Executive Budget, Governor Paterson proposed expanding the law to apply to non-carbonated beverages.

Grannis cited a 2005 study by the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency that found while 80% of plastic soda bottles are recycled, just 16% of plastic water bottles are recovered.

“Currently, nickels that customers pay on soda and beer containers but never reclaim remain with the beverage manufacturers,” Grannis said. “Under the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, the industry would be required to return these funds to the state. This would amount to more than $100 million a year at a time of enormous financial difficulty.”

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Trivia Question of the Week

What is the most potent greenhouse gas, in terms of its potential to trap heat?
a. nitrogen trifluoride
b. methane
c. sulfur hexafluoride
d. nitrous oxide