New Oil Safety Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains

July 18, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), recently announced proposed regulations for Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFTs) to improve oil spill response readiness and mitigate effects of rail incidents involving petroleum oil. The proposed rule would update and clarify the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements for certain trains, and would require railroads to share information with state and tribal emergency response commissions to improve community preparedness for potential accidents. The rule would also incorporate a test method for initial boiling point for flammable liquids into the hazardous materials regulations.

“Incidents involving crude oil can have devastating consequences to local communities and the environment. We’ve taken more than 30 actions in the last two years to continue to address risk, and we continue to push the industry to do more to prevent derailments from happening,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule goes one step further to hold industry accountable to plan and prepare for the worst case scenario. It would help to ensure that railroads have comprehensive plans to respond to derailments when they occur and better ensure the safety of communities living near railroads.”

The proposed regulations include a number of commonsense measures that will improve safety. The rule would expand the comprehensive oil spill response plan requirements under the Clean Water Act to certain HHFT trains based on the amount of crude oil being transported. These changes mean that certain HHFT trains would be required to have comprehensive plans, instead of basic plans that are currently required. It would also require the operator to be prepared to respond to an incident involving a worst-case discharge, or the largest quantity of oil reasonably expected to be discharged during an incident. The rule also would codify the requirement that railroads share information about all HHFT operations with state and tribal emergency response commissions to improve community preparedness, in accordance with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act).

“The substantial surge in our country’s production of crude oil is creating a serious need for improved response and communication between railroads and the communities through which they travel,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “This rule would help to ensure that railroads provide vital information to first responders to help them prepare for and respond to a derailment involving crude.”

“Whether in a small town, large city, or environmentally sensitive area, resources and information matter during any crude oil train incident,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “Railroads must continue to do everything possible to prevent an incident from occurring and strategically prepare in case one does.”

The rule proposes railroads be required to provide monthly notification or certification of no change to state and tribal emergency response commissions and relevant emergency responders for HHFTs, including:

  • A reasonable estimate of the number of HHFTs that are expected to travel, per week, through each county within the state
  • The routes over which the affected trains will be transported
  • A description of the materials shipped and applicable emergency response information required by hazardous materials regulations
  • At least one point of contact at the railroad (including name, title, phone number, and address) for the state and tribal emergency response commissions, and relevant emergency responders related to the railroad’s transportation of affected trains
  • For petroleum oil trains subject to the Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plan under 49 CFR part 130, the contact information for the qualified individuals and description of response zones must also be provided to state and tribal emergency response commissions, or other appropriate state-delegated entities

The notice of proposed rulemaking has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. An actual date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but a preview of the rulemaking proposal transmitted by PHMSA is available on the agency’s website. For more information on the USDOT’s efforts to improve hazardous materials safety and awareness, including details about the proposed rule, visit the PHMSA website.

New Exclusions for Solvent Recycling and Hazardous Secondary Materials

EPA’s new final on the definition of solid waste creates new opportunities for waste recycling outside the scope of the full hazardous waste regulations. This, which went into effect on July 13, 2015, streamlines the regulatory burden for wastes that are legitimately recycled.

The first of the two exclusions is an exclusion from the definition of solid waste for high-value solvents transferred from one manufacturer to another for the purpose of extending the useful life of the original solvent by keeping the materials in commerce to reproduce a commercial grade of the original solvent product.

The second, and more wide-reaching of the two exclusions, is a revision of the existing hazardous secondary material recycling exclusion. This exclusion allows you to recycle, or send off-site for recycling, virtually any hazardous secondary material. Provided you meet the terms of the exclusion, the material will no longer be hazardous waste.

Learn how to take advantage of these exclusions at Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast on July 8 where you will learn:

  • Which of your materials qualify under the new exclusions
  • What qualifies as a hazardous secondary material
  • Which solvents can be remanufactured, and which cannot
  • What is a tolling agreement
  • What is legitimate recycling
  • Generator storage requirements
  • What documentation you must maintain
  • Requirements for off-site shipments
  • Training and emergency planning requirements
  • If it is acceptable for the recycler to be outside the US

Petroleum Refinery NESHAP Amended

EPA has amended the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for Petroleum Refineries in three respects. First, the Agency adjusted the compliance date for regulatory requirements that apply at maintenance vents during periods of startup, shutdown, maintenance, or inspection for sources constructed or reconstructed on or before June 30, 2014. Second, the compliance dates for the regulatory requirements that apply during startup, shutdown, or hot standby for fluid catalytic cracking units (FCCU) and startup and shutdown for sulfur recovery units (SRU) constructed or reconstructed on or before June 30, 2014 were amended. Finally, EPA finalized technical corrections and clarifications to the NESHAP and the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Petroleum Refineries. These amendments are being finalized in response to new information submitted after these regulatory requirements were promulgated as part of the residual risk and technology review (RTR) rulemaking, which was published on December 1, 2015. According to EPA, this action will have an insignificant effect on emissions reductions and costs.

Ohio to Revise EPCRA Requirements

The Ohio EPA, on behalf of the State Emergency Response Commission, has completed a review of rule in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) section 3750. This review also serves as the fulfillment of the 5-year review for OAC 3750-30-27 under ORC 106.03. Based on this review, the following rule modifications have been published:

OAC 3750-30-27, "Threshold Quantity for Hazardous Chemical Reporting." The rule was amended to incorporate federal EPA reporting language to clarify the requirement to aggregate extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) in mixtures. The SERC rule did not make this distinction between required aggregation of EHSs and optional aggregation of non-EHS hazardous chemicals. The language provided in amended rule is consistent with federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know regulations, 40 CFR 370.28. The federal language was added verbatim at the end of the rule OAC3750-30-27(E) (3).

New OAC 3750-10-08, "Request for Order from a Local Emergency Planning Committee." The proposed new rule establishes a mechanism for a Local Emergency Planning Committee to get a designated facility to be subject to their local emergency response plan.

A public hearing on these rule changes will be conducted on August 19, 2016, at 10:30 am at Ohio EPA Central office, 50 West Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

On June 30, 2015, the EPA published the residual risk and technology review (RTR) final rule, establishing national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for the Ferroalloys Production source category. Subsequently, the EPA received two petitions for reconsideration of certain aspects of the final rule.

Ferroalloys NESHAP Update

On June 30, 2015, EPA published the residual risk and technology review (RTR) final rule, establishing national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) for the Ferroalloys Production source category. Subsequently, the Agency received two petitions for reconsideration of certain aspects of the final rule. EPA has announced the reconsideration of, and requesting public comment on three issues raised in the petitions for reconsideration. The three issues the EPA is reconsidering and seeking public comment on are the following: the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) compliance testing frequency for furnaces that produce ferromanganese (FeMn); the use of the digital camera opacity technique (DCOT) for determining compliance with the shop building opacity standards; and the use of bag leak detection systems (BLDS) on positive pressure baghouses. EPA is seeking comment only on these three issues and will not respond to comments addressing other issues or other provisions of the final rule. The EPA is not proposing any changes to the NESHAP.

Pittsburgh Abandons Hazmat Transport Permit Fee

The American Trucking Associations, Inc. (ATA), applied to the Department of Transportation for an administrative determination concerning whether Federal hazardous material transportation law, 49 U.S.C. 5101 et seq., preempts requirements of the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a permit to transport hazardous materials by motor vehicle and the fee to obtain the permit. On April 7, 2014, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a public notice and invitation to comment on ATA's application, 79 FR 21840. On June 2, 2014, the comment period closed without any parties submitting comments.

On April 27, 2015, PHMSA published a notice of delay in processing ATA's application in order to conduct additional fact-finding and legal analysis in response to the application, 80 FR 23328. On July 6, 2015, PHMSA sent a letter to the City's Solicitor, and its Fire Chief, to encourage the city to participate in the proceeding. On July 20, 2015, the City responded to PHMSA's letter and informed the agency that the “City of Pittsburgh at this time is not accepting applications for the ‘Transportation of Hazardous Materials’ permit and has not done so since 2013.” The City further stated that “[n]o fees were collected for 2014 or 2015. For 2013, the City of Pittsburgh collected a total of $8,316.00 which was deposited into the City of Pittsburgh's General Fund.” Thereafter, in a letter, dated March 11, 2016, the City's Solicitor confirmed to PHMSA that Pittsburgh had stopped enforcing its permit and fee requirements to transport hazardous materials in 2013, and further stated that it had no intention of taking it up again. In light of this information, PHMSA dismissed ATA's application.

Spectro Alloys Fined $125,000 for Hazardous Waste and Stormwater Violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reached agreement with Spectro Alloys over hazardous waste and stormwater violations. The violations, which were observed by MPCA inspectors in 2014 at the company’s aluminum recycling facility in Rosemount, included improper management of dust from pollution control equipment that potentially contained heavy metals that can be harmful to human health, and improper management of stormwater discharge from the site.

The company agreed to correct the violations and will pay a $125,000 civil penalty.

The Stipulation Agreement negotiated by the MPCA and Spectro Alloys addresses violations of state and federal laws on management of hazardous wastes and stormwater runoff.

The company processes scrap aluminum into blocks of aluminum alloys. The operation generates hazardous wastes, including dust that may contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and selenium, which can be harmful to human health. Under state and federal laws the company is required to capture and properly store and dispose of this waste so that it is not released to the environment.

MPCA inspections in 2014 found that about 13% of the dust from the facility’s air pollution control equipment was managed as hazardous waste. Inspectors also found dust coating the ground and equipment at the site, and overflowing and uncovered dust storage bins. They also found evidence that dust had run off the site in ditches, culverts and outflows that led to a soil infiltration area and a nearby ravine. State and federal laws require abating, treating, or controlling runoff that may contain contaminants.

As a result of these improper practices, potentially contaminated runoff and dust were released to the environment over an undetermined period of time.

The agreement requires the company to revise its stormwater management plan and ensure it manages wastes and stormwater runoff in compliance with state and federal law. Besides the civil penalty, negotiations between the MPCA and company also resulted in an agreement for the company to spend at least $36,000 to install additional screening equipment to help prevent hazardous material from entering their process; this work must be completed within 90 days of the signing of the agreement, which was on May 19, 2016. The company had already completed the agreement’s other requirements by the time the agreement was executed.

U.S. Power Sector Continues Significant Reductions of Air Pollutant Emissions

The nation’s largest electric producers continue to substantially reduce emissions of key air pollutants, the latest comprehensive analysis of U.S. power plant emissions shows.

The new report analyzed publicly reported data on carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and mercury emissions from the nation’s 100 largest electric power producers, which account for 85% of the nation’s power production.

Notably, the report, Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States, concludes that since 2000 emissions of all four major pollutants have dropped while total electricity generation and the American economy have grown.

“The nation’s electric power providers are in the midst of an unprecedented shift toward cleaner sources of energy,” said Dan Bakal, director of electric power at Ceres. “Yet progress is uneven, which highlights the need for many of the nation’s power providers to accelerate their transition to cleaner resources and lower carbon emissions.”

The report, which ranks emissions by producer and state, finds that CO2 emissions—a key driver of climate change—totaled 1.96 billion tons in 2014. But they dropped 15% between 2005 and 2014, and with preliminary data suggesting another 6% decline in 2015, CO2 emissions are almost back down to 1990 levels. This will help the U.S. continue to make progress towards the goals agreed upon in the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite the overall declines, there is still significant variability among power producers, with some power providers achieving fleet-wide CO2 emissions rates that are 10 times lower than others.

“Power plants are pouring out less and less of the carbon pollution driving climate change. And America is embracing the benefits of clean energy,” said Starla Yeh, senior policy analyst in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Renewable energy is widely expected to continue its strong growth, which will put the electricity sector in an excellent position to help the U.S. meet its international commitments. We must reach this milestone to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

The report identifies three primary factors that are driving the drop in CO2 emissions: energy efficiency improvements, coal plant retirements driven by market conditions and new air pollution standards, and an increase in generation from low- and zero-emitting resources, including natural gas, wind, and solar. Installed wind and solar capacity in the U.S. has more than doubled in the past five years to over 100 gigawatts (GW). Their combined output is now comparable to total hydroelectric generation in the U.S. Nuclear power continues to be the largest source of zero-carbon generation in the country at 62% of total non-emitting output.

Together with CO2, SO2, NOx, and mercury are associated with environmental and public health problems, including climate change, mercury deposition, acid rain, smog, regional haze, and fine particle air pollution, which can lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Other key findings in the benchmarking report include:

  • In 2014, power plant SO2 and NOx emissions were 80% and 75% lower, respectively, than in 1990, when Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act.
  • Mercury air emissions from power plants have decreased 55% since 2000. Mercury emissions will continue to decline as the first federal limits on mercury and other hazardous pollutants from coal-fired power plants went into effect in 2015 and 2016.
  • In 2014, power plants were responsible for 62% of SO2 emissions, 14% of NOx emissions, 58% of mercury air emissions (among sources reporting to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory), and 37% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S.
  • Air pollution is highly concentrated among just a few electricity producers: Ten producers were responsible for 56% of SO2 emissions, 43% of NOx, 49% of mercury, and 40% of CO2 emissions.
  • Coal accounted for 40%of the power produced by the top 100 power producers, followed by natural gas at 26%, nuclear at 22%, and renewable power, including large hydroelectric, and other sources at 12%.


“The Benchmarking Air Emissions report is an important resource for tracking changes in the environmental performance of the U.S. electric power sector and making this information available to our stakeholders—owners, customers, employees and communities,” said Chuck Barlow, vice president of environmental strategy and policy for Entergy Corporation. “Since 2001, Entergy has operated under voluntary commitments to stabilize our CO2 emissions through 2020 at 20% below year 2000 levels. Through 2015, our cumulative emissions are more than 9% below our 2001–2015 target. Our fleet emission intensity is well below that of a new combined-cycle gas unit.”

The Benchmarking report is the 12th in a series since 1997 highlighting environmental improvements and progress in the nation’s electric sector. The 100 power producers evaluated in the report represent 85% of the electric power generated in the U.S. and 87% of the industry’s air emissions. The report ranks each power company’s emissions and its emission rate (determined by dividing emissions by electricity produced) for each pollutant against the emissions and rates of the other companies.

In addition, states are ranked by the amount of each pollutant released. For example, the 10 states with the highest CO2 pollution are: Texas, 263.3 million tons; Florida, 119 million tons; Indiana, 114.1 million tons; Pennsylvania, 109.3 million tons; Ohio, 106 million tons; Illinois, 101 million tons; Kentucky, 94.1 million tons; Missouri, 82.8 million tons; West Virginia, 79.5 million tons; and Alabama, 73.4 million tons.

When ranked by CO2 emissions rate (lb CO2/MWh), the top 10 states in descending order are Kentucky, Wyoming, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri, North Dakota, Utah, New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado.

Based on 2014 generation and emissions data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and EPA, the benchmarking report is a collaborative effort between Ceres; Bank of America; power producers including Calpine, Entergy, and Exelon; and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is authored by M.J. Bradley & Associates.

Rachael’s Foods Fined $65,000 for Clean Air and EPCRA Violations

A Bloomfield, Connecticut, company that runs an ammonia refrigeration system at its meat processing plant has agreed to pay $65,000 in civil penalties to resolve claims by the EPA that it violated federal clean air laws as well as the federal right-to-know law in its use of ammonia.

In an agreement with EPA's New England office, Rachael's Food of 76 Granby St., which produces sausages, hot dogs, and cold cuts, faced three alleged violations of Clean Air Act requirements designed to prevent chemical accidents, and reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

This case stems from an October 2014 inspection where EPA identified alleged violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act due to potentially dangerous conditions relating to the ammonia refrigeration process. Inspectors also found that Rachael’s Food had not previously provided chemical inventory information to emergency responders that are required by the federal right-to-know law. This law ensures that emergency responders are aware of the presence and amount of ammonia at the facility.

After agreeing to a September 2015 order that required Rachael's Food to correct the Clean Air Act deficiencies, the company submitted a plan and schedule to correct the violations within three months and subsequently followed through on this plan.

"The company agreed to and has followed through on correcting these issues, so the neighborhoods surrounding the facility are better protected from the risk of harm from accidental ammonia releases," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "All facilities working with ammonia and hazardous chemicals are required to properly report their use, and to follow laws meant to protect the health of the community and our environment."

Among the alleged violations, Rachael's failed to do a required hazard analysis relating to its work with anhydrous ammonia; lacked critical information about the facility, like how much ammonia was in the refrigeration system; had inadequate ventilation; lacked necessary signs and labels; lacked basic safety practices including failing to prevent or repair damage to pipe insulation and rust on pipes, and inadequate access to and egress from the machinery room and the roof; and had inadequate emergency response measures, including inadequate ammonia detectors and alarms and a lack of eyewash and shower stations.

Rachael's Food, which bought this plant and its small ammonia refrigeration system in 2012 from Grote and Weigel, Inc., is located in a populated area across the street from a mall, bordered by homes and businesses and within a mile of schools, a nursing home, a university, a Boys and Girls club, playgrounds, and other recreation areas.

Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Exposure at high concentrations is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is flammable at certain concentrations in air and can explode if released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.

Facilities operating systems with more than 10,000 lb of anhydrous ammonia are subject to the Risk Management Plan regulations of the Clean Air Act, while smaller refrigeration systems are subject to the "General Duty Clause" of the Clean Air Act.

Fisher Sand & Gravel Resolves Water Quality Act Violation

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced that Fisher Sand & Gravel has resolved a violation of the Montana Water Quality Act that occurred at the company's Mobley Pit in Laurel.

Fisher discharged wastewater from pit dewatering into an adjacent wetland without the necessary permit. DEQ’s General Permit for Discharges Associated with Sand and Gravel Operations allows for discharges as long as certain conditions are met, including monitoring the discharge for total suspended solids, and oil and grease, to ensure the discharge meets water quality standards. The primary concern with wastewater from sand and gravel operations is sediment.

No violation of the water quality standard for turbidity was documented by the department. Fisher obtained the necessary permit and agreed to pay a penalty of $18,654 to resolve the violation.

BP Exploration Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska Violate Clean Water Act

The EPA has settled with petroleum exploration and development companies, BP Exploration Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska, for Clean Water Act violations following oil spills on Alaska’s North Slope. BP Exploration Alaska agreed to settle related violations with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in a parallel agreement.

Under the settlement framework, Hilcorp Alaska will pay $100,000 in federal penalties to resolve their alleged violations, while BP will pay $100,000 in state penalties and $30,000 in federal penalties to the Oil Spill Prevention Liability Trust Fund.

According to Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, petroleum developers, producers and transporters have a special responsibility to protect Alaska’s North Slope tundra.

“Alaska’s North Slope tundra is one of the earth’s harshest, yet most delicate ecosystems,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “So petroleum developers must do everything in their power—year round—to prevent spills and avoid releasing toxic chemicals to fragile wetlands or other important wildlife habitat. Our enforcement efforts are aimed squarely at protecting Alaska and Alaskans from the effects of spills and accidental releases.”

The Clean Water Act prohibits oil or hazardous substance spills that may harm people’s health or the environment and requires concrete actions to prevent future spills. Oil spills can also harm animal and plant life, including contaminating food sources and nesting habitats. The BP Exploration Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska oil spills affected arctic tundra wetlands in an area inhabited by caribou and other native wildlife including snow buntings, ptarmigan, white-fronted geese, and gulls.

In April 2014, BP Exploration Alaska released approximately 700 gallons of natural gas, crude oil, and produced water onto 33 acres of arctic tundra and gravel pad. The spill was caused by a freezing rupture in the dead leg section of BP’s H Pad Well 8 three-phase flowline.

In February 2015, Hilcorp Alaska spilled nearly 10,000 gallons of crude oil and produced water onto 40,000 square feet of arctic tundra and gravel pad. The spill resulted from a leak in the bottom of a pipeline from Hilcorp’s Milne Point Tract 14 production line.

Altoona Medical Facility Gets EPA Recognition for Electronics Recycling

EPA recently announced that the James E. Van Zandt Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania, has been selected for a national Federal Green Challenge Award for its electronics recycling efforts.

The Federal Green Challenge program challenges federal agencies throughout the country to lead-by-example in reducing the federal government's environmental impact.

EPA recognized the Van Zandt Veterans Affairs Medical Center for sending 8.2 tons of end-of-life electronics to be recycled in 2015. This amount of recycled electronics represents the largest annual percentage increase among all Federal Green Challenge participants. In addition to their electronics recycling, the center also identified and recycled more than 61% of their waste-stream, which they report is one of the highest in the Veterans Affairs system.

“The recycling accomplishments at the James E. Van Zandt Veterans Affairs Medical Center demonstrate how federal facilities can be leaders in reducing their environmental footprint,” said EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “Our Federal Green Challenge awards recognize these efforts and encourages other federal agencies to take steps to further conserve resources and protect the environment.”

In 2015, more than 400 participating federal facilities “walked the talk” and reduced their environmental footprint, which in many cases also resulted in significant cost savings. These federal agencies have diverted thousands of tons of waste from landfills; saved millions of gallons of water; saved millions of cubic feet of natural gas; reduced fleet distance traveled; and sent tons of end-of-life electronics to third-party certified recyclers.

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