The department sought and reviewed comments from state and local partners, Congress, private industry, and the public to develop consistent guidelines using a risk-based approach. The new rule gives the department authority to seek compliance through the imposition of civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day and the ability to shut down non-compliant facilities.
“The safety and security measures that we take need to be tough and balanced,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We will significantly reduce vulnerability at high-consequence chemical facilities, taking into account important efforts in certain states.”
The department will require owners of chemical facilities housing certain quantities of specified chemicals to complete a preliminary screening assessment that determines the level of risk associated with the facility. If a chemical facility preliminarily qualifies as high risk, its owners will be required to prepare and submit a security vulnerability assessment and site security plan. Submissions will be validated through audits and site inspections. The department will provide technical assistance to facility owners and operators as needed. Security standards will be required to achieve specific outcomes, such as securing the perimeter and critical targets, controlling access, deterring theft of potentially dangerous chemicals, and preventing internal sabotage.
Covered facilities contacted by the department will have 120 days from the publication of the regulation in the Federal Register to provide information for the risk assessment process. Other requirements follow that time period. Additional facilities will follow a similar timeframe after future Federal Register publications.
Some states have existing laws for regulating chemical facilities. Only state laws and requirements that conflict or interfere with these regulations, or the purpose for the regulations, will be preempted. Currently, the department has no reason to conclude that any existing state laws are applied in a way that would impede the federal rule.
In proposing a regulation for comment and then publishing an interim final rule prior to April 4, the department has met an aggressive timeline set by Congress.
Comments on the rule:
Supreme Court Decides Carbon Dioxide Can be Considered a Clean Air Act Pollutant
In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars. Greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the landmark environmental law, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion. The court's four conservative justices - Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas - dissented.
Many scientists believe greenhouse gases, flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, are leading to a warming of the Earth, rising sea levels, and other marked ecological changes. The politics of global warming have changed dramatically since the court agreed last year to hear its first global warming case.
Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. One way to reduce those emissions is to have more fuel-efficient cars.
The court had three questions before it.
- Do states have the right to sue the EPA to challenge its decision?
- Does the Clean Air Act give EPA the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases?
- Does EPA have the discretion not to regulate those emissions?
The court said yes to the first two questions. On the third, it ordered EPA to re-evaluate its contention it has the discretion not to regulate tailpipe emissions. The court said the agency has so far provided a "laundry list" of reasons that include foreign policy considerations.
The majority said the agency must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.
"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Stevens said. He was joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and the court's swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The lawsuit was filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups that had grown frustrated by the Bush administration's inaction on global warming. In his dissent, Roberts focused on the issue of standing, whether a party has the right to file a lawsuit.
Roberts said the court should simply recognize that redress of the kind of grievances spelled out by the state of Massachusetts is the function of Congress and the chief executive, not the federal courts. His position "involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it, or the extent of the problem," he said.
The decision also is expected to boost California and 11 other states prospects for gaining EPA approval of their own programs to limit tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Federal law gives California the right to seek approval of standards that are stricter than national norms and allows other states to adopt California standards.
Nevada Power to Pay $90 Million to Settle Clean Air Act Violations
Nevada Power Company has agreed to a joint settlement with the federal government and the state of Nevada that will require the utility to spend nearly $85 million on cleaner technology and pay a $1.11 million fine, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP), U.S. Department of Justice, and EPA announced. The settlement resolves allegations of air pollution control violations at its Reid Gardner coal-fired electric generating plant located 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
As part of the settlement, Nevada Power will also fund more than $4 million in energy conservation projects for the Clark County School District over the next seven years, saving the district at least $500,000 per year in energy costs.
“I am pleased that this case has been amicably resolved,” said Governor Jim Gibbons. “I applaud NDEP for its determination in carrying out this enforcement action and its dedicated efforts to protect the state’s air quality. Nevada Power, to its credit, has accepted the penalty, and embraced additional proactive measures that will result in energy cost savings for the school district and other air quality improvements in southern Nevada.”
“The state of Nevada in cooperation with the federal government has worked to ensure that environmental laws are being followed,” said Matthew J. McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource’s Division. “We continue to be committed to working with the EPA and states in order to ensure that industry and companies are in compliance with laws that protect the environment.”
In July 2005, after a year-long investigation, NDEP’s Bureau of Air Pollution Control issued 56 violation notices to Nevada Power for alleged air pollution control violations at its Reid Gardner electric generating plant in Clark County. Most of the alleged violations involved failure to comply with emissions limitations and failure to adequately monitor and record operational data necessary for NDEP to ensure that the company was complying with the state’s air quality requirements.
“This case clearly demonstrates our strong commitment to the protection of Nevada’s environment,” said NDEP Administrator Leo Drozdoff. “In addition to reducing air pollution in southern Nevada and assisting the school district with energy conservation, this settlement has led to a much-improved working relationship between NDEP and Nevada Power’s management and staff.”
NDEP and Nevada Power requested EPA’s participation in this case in September 2005 to assist with negotiations and to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations of Reid Gardner’s Title V emissions permit and federal opacity, or smoke regulations.
“NDEP’s strong lead on this case helped propel us to today’s settlement,” said Wayne Nastri, regional administrator for the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “We were able to strike an effective state/federal partnership building on NDEP's extensive investigation and the federal government's experience negotiating large power plant cases.”
As part of the settlement, Nevada Power agreed to spend $90 million on these additional measures to prevent future emissions violations:
- Replacement of the fuel oil igniters with cleaner-burning natural gas igniters used in start-up and flame stabilization in the plant’s boilers
- Installation and operation of a baghouse system to reduce particulate emissions at Units 1, 2 and 3 of the plant by more than 300 tons per year
- Development and implementation of an Environmental Management System to ensure compliance with the stringent emissions monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements contained in its operating permit. The plant’s operations must also be audited by a third-party auditor, and the findings reported to NDEP and EPA
Additionally, Nevada Power will install a new advanced combustion system in the boiler of Unit 4 at Reid Gardner, which will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 1000 tons per year. This system, which is expected to cost up to $9.7 million, will be installed and operational within two years. Through this settlement, Nevada Power has agreed to permanently retire the greater of 30% or 282 tons of NOx emissions from the Clark County air pollution inventory.
The state of Nevada will receive 70%, or $770,000 of the $1.11 million civil penalty which reflects the state’s level of effort in this case. The federal government will receive 30% or $340,000.
RTK NET Publishes Toxics Release Inventory Data
The Right-to-Know Network () recently published the 2005 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), providing public access to important EPA data on the release and transfer of toxic chemicals in the United States. This is EPA's earliest release of the annual TRI data in the history of the program.
Individual facilities report TRI data by sending reports to the EPA every year. RTK NET allows the public to search the data, enabling them to learn about the toxic chemicals in their local communities, states, regions, and the entire nation. Users can search by location, individual facility, parent company, industry type, and offsite waste transfer data tailored to fit their specific requirements. Updates over this past year include more comprehensive search results and additional cross-referencing options that allow for simultaneous sewage plant and offsite transfer searches. RTK NET is also using a new indexing protocol, called sitemaps, which will allow key results to be found via popular Internet search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.
In December 2006, EPA changed the TRI rules in a way that drastically reduces the amount of data collected, diminishing the availability of data for TRI program users. The agency raised the threshold for detailed reporting for most of the 650 TRI chemicals from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds, and up to 2,000 pounds can be released directly to the environment. The reporting changes will also reduce reporting requirements on low-level waste generation of persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) such as mercury and lead.
New EPA Asbestos Brochure Targets Auto Mechanics
. Current Best Practices for Preventing Asbestos Exposure Among Brake and Clutch Repair Workers emphasizes the need to prevent asbestos fibers from escaping into the air during repair work.
While it is impossible to tell if clutch and brake components contain asbestos, the booklet advises that mechanics should automatically assume the possible presence of asbestos. The booklet emphasizes the warning against blowing dust from brakes and clutches with compressed air. It also details three recognized methods for containing asbestos dust in a professional automotive shop.
The booklet provides a list of do's and don'ts for do-it-yourself mechanics. They include using pre-ground, ready-to-install parts and not taking work clothing inside the house to prevent exposing family members to asbestos dust.
EPA Reaches Agreement with Rolls Royce for CFC Violations Discovered in Self-Audit
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Rolls Royce Corp. on alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's helicopter engine manufacturing plant at 2001/2355 S. Tibbs Ave., Indianapolis, Ind.
EPA said Rolls Royce discovered the alleged violations through an internal audit and disclosed them to Region 5. In addition, the company replaced all three appliances in a timely manner.
When CFC refrigerants deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun strike the earth. Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995, and federal law strictly controls their use and handling.
$40,000 Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations by Trendwood, Inc. in South Phoenix
Attorney General Terry Goddard and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens announced that Trendwood, Inc. has agreed to a $40,000 penalty for hazardous waste violations at the company's South Phoenix facilities.
Trendwood, Inc. is a wood furniture manufacturer based in south Phoenix with locations at 2402 S. 15th Avenue and 261 E. University.
"Hazardous waste violations that put employees or nearby residents at risk are unacceptable," said ADEQ Director Owens.
"These violations created significant safety risks," Attorney General Goddard said. "The fact that they are longstanding makes them all the more serious."
ADEQ conducted inspections of both facilities following two fires in April 2001 at the South Phoenix facility. The fires resulted from improper handling and disposal of filters that were saturated with a nitrocellulose-containing stain. The waste burst into flames inside an improper disposal unit. After the first fire, on April 15, the Phoenix Fire Prevention Unit ordered the company to stop putting waste in dumpsters and to contact ADEQ for assistance on proper handling and disposal. The company failed to do as ordered by Phoenix Fire, and the second fire occurred April 29.
Following the inspections, ADEQ issued two notices of violation to Trendwood for failure to perform waste determinations, failure to prevent fires and disposal of hazardous waste without a permit. Trendwood stored unlabeled hazardous waste near an outside break area for employees, and failed to take appropriate precautions to prevent a fire at their facility. Further, the company had been improperly disposing of hazardous waste for several years.
Electronic Stability Control to be Required for All New Passenger Vehicles
In a move that could ultimately save up to 10,000 lives each year on U.S. roadways, the nation's top transportation official recently announced plans to make new crash prevention technology standard equipment on every new passenger vehicle sold in America by 2012.
ESC uses automatic computer controlled braking to keep drivers from losing control on slippery roads or in emergency maneuvers, in many cases preventing deadly rollovers from occurring.
“This technology will save thousands of lives. Like airbags and seat belts, ten years down the road we will look back at the new ESC technology and wonder how we ever drove a car without it.” Secretary Peters said.
“ESC technology will put the brakes on crashes and help drivers keep control of their cars in critical situations,” Administer Nason said. “ESC works, it will save lives, and it can give American drivers and passengers the peace of mind that comes from knowing their vehicles have some of the most technologically advanced safety equipment available.”
The final rule will require all manufacturers to begin equipping passenger vehicles with ESC starting with model year 2009, and to have the feature available as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles by the 2012 model year (September 2011).
The agency estimates ESC will save between 5,300 and 9,600 lives annually and prevent between 168,000 and 238,000 injuries. The estimated average cost of ESC is approximately $111 per vehicle, assuming the model already features ABS brakes.
EPA Offers "SmartWay" Certification for Fuel-Efficient Trucks
We may be accustomed to seeing the "Energy Star" label on our appliances, but now fuel-efficient tractor-trailer rigs will carry their own label: the SmartWay logo. The EPA announced on March 30 that 2007 models of heavy trucks can earn certification from EPA's SmartWay program. SmartWay-approved equipment, like aerodynamic front bumpers and side mirrors, can cut wind resistance and reduce fuel consumption by 10 to 20 percent. Each SmartWay-qualified rig can produce savings of up to 4,000 gallons of diesel per year, which would save truckers more than $11,000 each year at current diesel fuel prices. Well-known truck brands are participating in the program, including Freightliner, International, Kenworth, Mack, Peterbilt, and Volvo. Truckers that buy the rigs and participate in the program can display the SmartWay logo on their tractors and trailers.
The EPA plans to set more ambitious performance targets for the SmartWay rigs in the future. The EPA is also developing guidelines for recognizing other vehicles such as delivery vans, in which hybrid technology can dramatically improve fuel efficiency.
Supreme Court Rules against Duke Energy in New Source Review Case
In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of environmental groups in an enforcement case against Duke Energy Corp. for failing to upgrade its air pollution controls when it renovated eight aging coal-fired power plants.
At issue are the Clean Air Act's "New Source Review" (NSR) provisions, which require installation of the most current air pollution control technologies at power plants, refineries, and other industrial polluters whenever they are changed in a way that increases air pollution.
Though renovations to Duke's plants caused them to release more air pollution each year, a lower court ruled that the changes did not trigger NSR because they did not increase the maximum amount of pollution the plants could emit each hour. The Supreme Court overruled the lower court, concluding that under federal regulations, NSR plainly applies to any physical or operational change that increases a plant's actual air pollution levels, measured on a yearly basis.
Earthjustice assisted attorneys for the environmental group petitioners in the Duke case, and represented some of the same groups in two closely related cases litigated in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, "This unanimous Supreme Court decision is a stinging rebuke and rejection of the power industry's effort to undermine the vital New Source Review section of the Clean Air Act," Blumenthal said. "This ruling saves our citizens from more smog and acid rain, more asthma and other respiratory disease and even death. Duke argued that hourly instead of total power plant emissions should determine whether plants must install stronger anti-pollution equipment when they modernize or expand. The proposal would have allowed modified plants to greatly increase harmful emissions. The justices powerfully rejected this effort to emasculate the Clean Air Act."
In addition, the Supreme Court also decided in favor of environmentalists, public health groups and states challenging the EPA's decision to not regulate harmful global warming pollution from motor vehicles.
DOT to Consider Classifying Polyurethane Foam as a Hazardous Material
The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) petitioned the Department of Transportation to classify Polyurethane Foam and certain finished products containing Polyurethane Foam (PU) as hazardous materials in transportation in commerce, as a matter of safety for emergency responders and the public.
$191,000 for Falsifying Records, Exceeding Daily Limits at Waste Transfer Station
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it has issued a $191,000 fine against East Penn Sanitation for recordkeeping and other violations at the company’s waste transfer station in Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County.
“East Penn Sanitation falsified its daily records and exceeded permitted daily volume limits at its municipal waste transfer station,” DEP Northeast Regional Director Michael D. Bedrin said. “Our action was taken in conjunction with charges filed against the company by the Attorney General’s Office in 2004.”
As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, East Penn Sanitation entered a guilty plea to one count of unlawful conduct under Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act. Pursuant to the guilty plea, the company paid a $400,000 fine, $274,275 of which was paid to the state’s Solid Waste Abatement Fund and the rest distributed to local environmental and law enforcement groups.
The investigation revealed that East Penn Sanitation exceeded its 200-tons-per-day maximum waste acceptance volumes on many occasions between 1998 and September 2003. The company also disposed of recyclable materials and falsified recycling reports submitted to local municipalities.
The agreement with DEP includes the $191,000 civil penalty and requirements that the company implement environmental management systems for waste acceptance and record keeping. East Penn Sanitation must also obtain ISO 14001 environmental management certification to minimize negative impacts on the environment. ISO is a network of the non-government national standards institutes of 157 countries based in Geneva, Switzerland.
A pending permit application to expand the operation will remain on hold until the company has undergone third-party audits and is certified as ISO 14001 compliant.
“East Penn Sanitation has committed to upgrading its compliance and operations procedures,” said Bedrin. “Once they prove they can continue to operate in compliance, we will review the expansion application.”
20,800 Penalty for Distributing Ineffective Disinfectant
The EPA has settled with Oculus Innovative Sciences, Inc. of Petaluma, Calif., for $20,800 for allegedly distributing an antimicrobial disinfectant that failed effectiveness testing, in violation of federal pesticide laws.
The EPA cited Oculus for allegedly distributing Cidalcyn. The product claims to be a hospital-grade disinfectant that will eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. Sampling results show the product is not effective against certain bacteria.
“In order for a company to sell a hospital-grade disinfectant, the product needs to eliminate harmful bacteria, and Cidalcyn simply does not,” said Enrique Manzanilla, the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “If the EPA finds that a product fails testing for product effectiveness, the company can expect significant penalties.”
In September 2005, EPA inspectors conducted an inspection at the Oculus facility and collected samples of Cidalcyn for testing. The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs microbiology lab then tested the effectiveness of Cidalcyn and determined that contrary to the label’s claim, it was ineffective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylcoccus aureus. Due to this testing failure, the pesticide does not meet its claim of being a broad-spectrum disinfectant suitable for hospital use. Once notified of this failure, Oculus stopped distributing the product and is working with the EPA to modify its registration.
Disinfectants are considered “pesticides” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which regulates the production, distribution, and use of pesticides within the United States. Before selling or distributing any pesticide in the United States, a company must register it with the EPA. As part of the registration process, the company must ensure that the pesticide meets the claims made on its label.
Ohio EPA Reaches a Settlement with Henkel Corporation
The violations occurred at its facility located at 123 West Bartges Street, Akron, Summit County, Ohio. The settlement includes a $12,200 penalty of which $9,800 will be deposited into the state's hazardous waste cleanup fund. In lieu of paying the remaining $2,400 of the penalty, Henkel Corporation will contribute $2,400 to the Ohio EPA Clean Diesel School Bus Program.
Volvo Penta Marine Recognized as Tennessee Pollution Prevention Partner
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recognizes Volvo Penta Marine Products for achieving partner level status in the Tennessee Pollution Prevention Partnership (TP3) environmental leadership program.
“This is a wonderful achievement for both Volvo Penta Marine Products and its employees,” said Lori Munkeboe, director of the Office of Environmental Assistance, which manages the TP3 program. “The company was able to eliminate a hazardous waste stream and save money by changing the kind of paint it uses in one of its processes.”
To achieve partner level status, TP3 program participants develop a five-project plan to help prevent pollution of air, land, and water, while reducing waste and conserving natural resources. The participant also completes one of the five projects in their plan and produces a success story describing the project. When all five projects are complete and remaining criteria are met, the participant is eligible to move up to performer level status.
“Environmental care in all operations is an integral part of Volvo Penta’s commitment to customers and end users, employees and the community,” said Dana Scates, environmental and safety officer for the company. “We invest every year in new technology that boosts the performance of our products while also reducing the environmental impact of our processes.”
Volvo Penta’s first pollution prevention project resulted in the elimination of 10,000 pounds of hazardous material from being generated every year, saving about $50,000 per year in disposal costs.
The Tennessee Pollution Prevention Partnership is a statewide network of households, schools, government agencies, organizations, businesses, and industries working together to prevent pollution. The Tennessee Pollution Prevention Roundtable, with assistance from the Department of Environment and Conservation, developed many of the guidelines for TP3.
OEPA Fines Three Companies for Hazardous Waste Violations
The violations occurred at its facility located at 34000 Lakeland Blvd., Eastlake. Lake County. The settlement includes a $20,240 penalty of which $16,240 will be deposited into the state's hazardous waste cleanup fund. In lieu of paying the remaining $4,000 of the penalty, Esco Turbine Technologies - Cleveland Inc. will contribute $4,000 to the Ohio EPA Clean Diesel School Bus Program.
The violations occurred at its facility located at 9705 Reading Road, Cincinnati, Hamilton County. The settlement includes a $17,000 penalty of which $13,600 will be deposited into the state's hazardous waste cleanup fund. In lieu of paying the remaining $3,400 of the penalty, Sealtron, Inc. will contribute $3,400 to the Ohio EPA Clean Diesel School Bus Program.
The violations occurred at its facility located at 1200 Firestone Parkway, Akron, Summit County. The settlement includes a $4,400 penalty which will be deposited into the state's hazardous waste cleanup fund.
Says Recess Appointment Threatens Public Protections
Dudley will now serve in the White House Office of Management and Budget as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
OIRA is a powerful office responsible for reviewing and approving federal agencies' most significant regulations. Installing Dudley threatens decades of public health and safety protections; doing so by recess appointment endangers our democratic process.
"Dudley's record is one of anti-regulatory extremism," said Rick Melberth, Director of Regulatory Policy at OMB Watch. "She has opposed some of our nation's most basic environmental, workplace safety and public health protections."
Dudley has falsely proclaimed ground-level ozone to be beneficial, opposed ergonomic standards to protect workers from repetitive stress disorders, and even suggested that airbags should never have been mandated in automobiles.
The kinds of rollbacks Dudley may push forward could render useless valuable federal laws that have saved countless American lives.
Dudley's strong ties with the industries she will be regulating pose an obvious conflict of interest. For the three years before her nomination, Dudley directed the Regulatory Studies program at the Mercatus Center — an industry-funded, anti-regulatory think tank. It is likely that industry executives will have unprecedented access to Dudley, while concerned citizens will be increasingly shut out.
As Dudley begins her work, OMB Watch strongly urges Congress to exercise its considerable oversight powers to prevent attempts to dismantle public protections.
By installing Dudley through recess appointment, Bush has also circumvented the constitutional confirmation process. The Republican-controlled Senate of the 109th Congress did not move her nomination in 2006. The new Senate began planning for the confirmation process after Dudley was renominated earlier this year.
"At a time when the American people are growing more frustrated with back-room, special interest dealings at the White House, Bush has bypassed the transparency afforded by the Senate confirmation process," Melberth said.
UN Secretary General Urges Nations to Act Decisively to Mitigate Worst Effects of Climate Change
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has called climate change one of his top priorities, hailed a new report on the subject, urging nations to make decisive efforts to alleviate the worst consequences brought on by global warming.
The study said that warmer global temperatures are causing profound changes in many of the earth's natural systems. Approximately 20-30 per cent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5 degrees centigrade. According to IPCC forecasts, the earth is likely to warm by 3 degrees centigrade during this century, a temperature that would have largely negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, such as water and food supply.
As a result of warmer temperatures, springtime events are occurring earlier, such increased run-off and peak discharge in many glacier- and snow-fed rivers, "greening" of vegetation and migration and egg-laying by birds. More animal and plant species have also been observed shifting toward higher latitudes.
The report found that while some efforts are underway to adapt to climate change, they are, by and large, insufficient in dealing with the scope of the potential problems.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban "expresses his concern that the impacts of climate change are increasingly noticeable, and likely to become more so in the future as extreme weather events intensify."
He called on states which are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to act quickly to create a plan to tackle future needs in time to replace the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement requiring 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which is set to expire in 2012.
He voiced hope that countries will take steps towards creating a new environmental framework at the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
"Adequate, large-scale adaptation measures have the potential to alleviate some of the worst consequences outlined in the report, if governments take action without delay," Mr. Ban said.
Climate change presents dangers that could affect the health of millions of people, the report found, for it could lead to increased malnutrition, deaths, and disease due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone. The new report noted that changes are affecting regions differently, and in the coming years, the impacts of climate change will be even more dramatic. The IPCC forecasts that by mid-century, the annual average river runoff and water availability will increase by 10-40 per cent at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, while decreasing by 10-30 per cent in some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the dry tropics.
The number of drought-affected areas is expected to increase, and regions that currently rely on glacier-fed rivers for their drinking water, presently providing water to about one-sixth of the world's popuation, will likely see reduced availability.
The report is the second of four that the IPCC will issue this year as part of its fourth assessment report on climate change. The report, written with the participation of hundreds of scientists from around the world, was endorsed by Government representatives after week-long deliberations in Brussels.
US Climate and Ocean Scientists Banned from Talking to Press without Approval
Under rules posted last week, these federal scientists must obtain agency pre-approval to speak or write, whether on or off-duty, concerning any scientific topic deemed “of official interest.”
On March 29, 2007, the Commerce Department posted a new administrative order governing “Public Communications.” This new order covers the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Weather Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Commerce’s new order will become effective in 45 days and would repeal a more liberal “open science” policy adopted by NOAA on February 14, 2006.
The new order forbids agency scientists from communicating any relevant information, even if prepared and delivered on their own time as private citizens, which has not been approved by the official chain-of-command:
Any “fundamental research communication” must “before the communication occurs” be submitted to and approved by the designated “head of the operating unit.” While the directive states that approval may not be withheld “based on policy, budget, or management implications of the research,” it does not define these terms and limits any appeal to within Commerce.
National Weather Service employees are allowed only “as part of their routine responsibilities to communicate information about the weather to the public”; and scientists must give the Commerce Department at least two weeks “advance notice” of any written, oral or audiovisual presentation prepared on their own time if it “is a matter of official interest to the department because it relates to department programs, policies, or operations.”
“This ridiculous gag order ignores the First Amendment and disrespects the world-renowned professionals who work within Commerce agencies,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Under this policy, National Weather Service scientists can only give out name, rank, serial number and the temperature.”
The agency rejected a more open policy adopted last year by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The new policy also was rushed to print despite an ongoing Commerce Office of Inspector General review of communication policies that was undertaken at congressional request.
While claiming to provide clarity, the new Commerce order gives conflicting directives, on one hand telling scientists that if unsure whether a conclusion has been officially approved “then the researcher must make clear that he or she is representing his or her individual conclusion.” Yet, another part of the order states non-official communications “may not take place or be prepared during working hours.” This conflict means that every scientist who answers an unexpected question at a conference puts his or her career at risk by giving an honest answer.
Court Agrees that EPA Broke the Law by Failing to Update Safe Beachwater Standards
The EPA’s failure to update public health standards for beachwater quality violates the law, according to a federal judge’s ruling issued in court last week. The decision is the result of a lawsuit filed last August by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Los Angeles.
“EPA’s delays in setting new standards are unacceptable,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. “The agency must act quickly now to protect the millions of people who run the risk of getting sick from contaminated beachwater every year.”
NRDC filed suit after the EPA missed the Congressionally mandated deadline of October 2005 to revise outdated health standards for beachwater quality. The agency now claims it will not be able to finish updating the standards – as required by the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000 (BEACH Act) – until at least 2011. This leaves millions of Americans swimming at beaches where the water may be contaminated with harmful viruses and bacteria from sewage and storm overflows.
In the judge’s opinion signed last week, EPA failed to meet a requirement under the BEACH Act to update water quality standards. According to the judge, the BEACH Act “imposes a non-discretionary duty that EPA was obligated, but failed, to abide by.” Further proceedings in the lawsuit will now address the appropriate remedy for EPA’s violations of the law.
Current beachwater quality standards, which were set in 1986, use outdated monitoring standards and testing methods that do not provide timely or comprehensive information to beachgoers about their risk of getting waterborne illnesses.
According to NRDC, an estimated 7 million Americans are sickened by contaminated recreational and drinking water every year.
Ohio Proposes to Revise Hazardous Waste Regulations
The draft Set I-b rules are amended, new, or rescinded either to bring them into equivalence with their amended (or new or rescinded) federal counterpart provisions, or to make corrections necessary to make the hazardous waste rules consistent within themselves (cross-references, word choice, etc.).
These are the major subjects of the federal rulemakings (as shown in the Federal Register on a number of dates) that are being addressed in Set I-b:
- BIF/MACT/Combustors/NESHAPS: These amendments provide for the coordination of the hazardous waste rules under RCRA (Ohio’s DHWM) with the rules managing hazardous air pollution under the Clean Air Act (Ohio’s DAPC). The intent is to provide flexibility and reduce redundancy in permitting hazardous waste facilities that are also regulated under air permit requirements.
- Dyes and Pigments Production Wastes Listing: These amendments include the listing of K181 production (manufacturing) wastes of certain dyes and pigments commonly used for coloring textiles, paper, plastic, leather, inks, paints, foods, drugs, and cosmetics. There are as many as 36 facilities nationwide that generate and manage these wastes, and it is probable that K181 will be disposed in Ohio under the amended rules.
- Performance Track: These amendments provide the opportunity for generators that consistently meet environmental performance requirements to be approved into the National Environmental Performance Track Program. Amended regulatory provisions for these facilities include an increased amount of time that a hazardous waste generator may accumulate waste without a permit (or interim status), and simplified (less stringent) reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
- Manifest Rule: These amendments standardize the content of the manifest used to track hazardous waste from generation to disposition. They improve the availability of the new form and adopt new procedures for tracking certain types of waste shipments with the manifest, including hazardous wastes that destination facilities reject, residues of non-empty containers, and wastes entering or leaving the U.S. Some of these provisions are not delegable to states, so the state rule requires compliance with the federal requirements; these are referenced appropriately in accordance with Senate Bill 265 of the 124th General Assembly (SB265), which dealt with such cross-referencing issues.
There are also several state-required changes in the Set I-b rules that are not seen in the counterpart federal provisions, but which are required under state law:
- Several of the rules address the cross-referencing requirements added to statute by SB265. These rules contain a new [Comment] at the end of the rule that directs them to the “Incorporated by reference” rule, which contains the date and availability information required by SB265.
- A number of these (31) are rules that are required to be reviewed every five years under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) section 119.032. For the purposes of the ORC section 119.032 review, we evaluated whether a rule a) required unnecessary paperwork; b) needed to be changed to allow more flexibility at the local level; c) duplicated, overlapped, or conflicted with other rules; and d) should be continued without amendment, amended, or rescinded considering the purpose, scope, and intent of Ohio law. We also evaluated the provisions of each rule against Ohio law to confirm statutory authority for each provision.
- A few rules make changes designed to address Legislative Services Commission (LSC) requirements that changed when the electronic rule-making system came into mandatory use. Most of these are the use of upper and lower case, or rule structure or format issues.
You can download the proposed rules here:
Ohio to Regulate Gas Cans
The Ohio EPA is proposing amendments to Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 3745-21-17, "Portable Fuel Containers." These rules regulate the distribution and sale of portable fuel containers (PFC's), commonly known as "gas cans," in the state of Ohio. These rules are intended to help Ohio attain and maintain the 8-hour national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone through the reduction of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from these containers. VOCs are a precursor to ozone. The rules are being proposed after a 30-day public comment period which closed on August 23, 2006. No comments were received.
Pursuant to Section 121.39 of the Ohio Revised Code, DAPC was required to consult with interested parties affected by the rules before the division formally adopts them. On July 24, 2006 these rules went out for a 30-day review by interested parties. No comments were received.
Pursuant to Part D of Title I of the Clean Air Act, Ohio EPA is required to establish a state implementation plan (SIP) for the attainment and maintenance of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The above mentioned rules are a part of Ohio’s SIP and the proposed amendments will be submitted to USEPA as a modification of the SIP. The above mentioned hearing shall be considered the public hearing for the SIP submittal.
Questions or comments about these rules should be directed to Alan Harness at Ohio EPA, (614) 644-4838, or mailed to Alan Harness, Ohio EPA, Division Air Pollution Control, Lazarus Government Center, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049.
New Technology for Environmental Solutions Collaborating for Results
The EPA Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs will host a workshop on May 8, 2007, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the EPA Region 6 office, 1445 Ross Avenue, in Dallas, Texas. Attend the workshop to learn about new innovative technology to help solve important environmental issues, such as polluted air, land and water, and the need for cleaner energy. A sampling of the technologies to be discussed includes:
- Diesel retrofit and baghouse filtration for air pollution control fuel cells, microturbines and geothermal systems, as well as low-cost biodiesel production for greener energy
- Stormwater and on-site residential wastewater treatment for protecting water quality
- Grouts, coatings, and linings for water infrastructure rehabilitation mercury emission monitors and immunoassay test kits for better source and ambient air and water monitoring
- Water quality monitors for detecting pathogens and hormonal activity to protect drinking water, source water, and recreational waters nano-, micro- and ultra-filtration, and reverse osmosis for drinking water treatment, as well as emergency mobile drinking water treatment units
- Cleaner coating processes for reduced volatile emissions
State and local agencies, as well as trade associations are collaborating on these projects. Their representatives will discuss how partnerships are key to new technology success and commercialization. ETV and SBIR will showcase on-going technology development and evaluation efforts, propose priority technology categories of interest for the future, and seek input from participants about new technology areas to pursue. If you are an environmental technology user, regulator, or developer, and have ideas for which technologies need to be supported – by funding research and development under SBIR, or by third-party objective testing of commercial-ready technologies under ETV – please plan to participate in this workshop. Environmental professionals from the public and private sectors and the general public are encouraged to attend.
U.S., India Renew Agreement on Environmental Cooperation
The agreement was signed by the EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and the Indian Minister of Environment and Forests A. Raja.
"The United States and India share in the commitment of being good global neighbors," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Renewing this MOU strengthens EPA's vital collaborations with our Indian partners in order to continue to accelerate the pace of environmental progress in both our nations." The MOU focuses on four priorities: air quality, water quality, toxic chemicals and waste, and the management of environmental agencies.
This renewed commitment builds on significant accomplishments during the first five years of the MOU. Through collaboration with the Pune Municipal Corporation and the California Air Resources Board, the city developed a comprehensive air quality management plan that is currently being replicated in six cities throughout India. Additionally, EPA is working with Pune and the state of Maharashtra to demonstrate the effectiveness of using technology to reduce air pollution from diesel buses and auto-rickshaws.
In Hyderabad, EPA is working with the World Health Organization and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board to prevent drinking water contamination, protecting the health of 200,000 residents.
The renewed MOU agrees to expand upon these successful initiatives to protect human health and the environment and promote sustainable development in India.
Trivia Question of the Week
Put the following events in sequence:
a. The first celebration of Earth Day in the US
b. Establishment of the US Environmental Protection Agency
c. Air Pollution Control Act
d. The pesticide DDT is banned in the US
e. CFC phaseout begins
f. PCB phasout begins
g. Scientists discover hole in ozone layer over Antarctica
h. Environmental Resource Center established