New Rules for Lithium Batteries Transported by Air

March 04, 2019
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) to enhance air safety by revising the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) for lithium ion cells or batteries transported by aircraft.
“This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
The rule:
  • Prohibits the transport of lithium ion cells or batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft;
  • Requires lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30% state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft when not packed with or contained in equipment;
  • Limits the use of alternative provisions for small lithium cell or battery shipments;
  • Further aligns U.S. transportation regulations specific to lithium batteries with standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO);
  • Does not restrict passengers or crew members from bringing personal items or electronic devices containing lithium batteries aboard aircraft in carry-on or checked baggage.
“PHMSA is enhancing passenger safety by permitting personal electronic devices onboard aircraft while ensuring cargo shipments of batteries are transported separately,” said PHMSA Administrator Howard “Skip” Elliott.  
For further information, see the Interim Final Rule as submitted to the Federal Register and this list of frequently asked questions.  The rule will go into effect on the day that its published in the Federal Register. You may submit comments to the IFR under Docket Number: PHMSA‑2016‑0014 (HM‑224I) at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at:
Pharmaceutical Waste Rule Finalized
The EPA has recently finalized new rules for pharmaceutical waste. These regulations, which go into effect on August 21, 2019, provide less stringent requirements for waste pharmaceuticals at healthcare facilities. Attend this live webcast and learn:
  • What types of pharmaceuticals qualify for the new rule
  • Which facilities can take advantage of the new rule, and which cannot
  • Requirements for healthcare facilities and reverse distributors
  • Impact of the new rule on your site hazardous waste generator status
  • New requirements for empty containers
  • What’s the difference between creditable, non-creditable, and evaluated pharmaceuticals
  • Is a hazardous waste manifest required?
  • What must be marked on containers
  • Step by step procedures for compliance
  • What to do with controlled substances
  • Worker training requirements
New DOE Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Center
The use of lithium-ion batteries has surged in recent years, starting with electronics and expanding into many applications, including the growing electric and hybrid vehicle industry. But the technologies to optimize recycling of these batteries have not kept pace.
The launch of the U.S. Department of Energy’s first lithium-ion battery recycling center, called the ReCell Center, will help the United States grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is collaborating with Argonne National Laboratory, which is leading the initiative, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and several universities including Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of California at San Diego and Michigan Technological University. The ReCell Center is supported by DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) with $15 million over three years. Work will include development of test beds and a process scale up facility at Argonne.
“ReCell brings our national laboratories, the private sector and universities together to develop advanced technologies that safely and cost effectively recycle lithium-ion batteries,” said Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary of EERE. “This center will create jobs and create a national supply of lithium-based battery materials, as well as spur the adoption of an affordable electric vehicle economy.”
Collaborators from across the battery supply chain, including battery manufacturers, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), recycling centers, battery lifecycle management services and material suppliers, are working with the center.
Recycled materials from lithium-ion batteries can be reused in new batteries, reducing production costs by 10 to 30 percent, which could help lower the overall cost of electric vehicle (EV) batteries in order to meet DOE’s goal of $80 per kilowatt hour.
ORNL’s role in the ReCell Center will focus on the design of cells to optimize recyclability, including working on the separation of active powders from their collector foils and developing a new method to rejuvenate cathode powers using ionic liquids.
“We’re also working on a scalable process that can separate the active components in the cells from the inactive components without causing structural or chemical changes under non-acidic and low temperature conditions,” said Ilias Belharouak, ORNL group leader for Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing in the Battery Manufacturing Facility at the National Transportation Research Center. Belharouak said the scalable process will solve the challenge of separating cathodes and graphite from aluminum and copper current collectors.
ORNL R&D is anticipated to set the stage for cost-effective and clean recovery of mixed lithium-ion cathodes with minimal composition and morphology changes and under non-invasive chemistry conditions.
Overall, collaborators will focus on four key research areas to enable profitable lithium-ion battery recycling for industry adoption:
  • A direct cathode recycling focus will develop recycling processes that generate products that go directly back into new batteries without the need for costly reprocessing;
  • A focus to recover other materials will work to create technologies that cost effectively recycle other battery materials, providing additional revenue streams;
  • Design for recycling will develop new battery designs optimized to make future batteries easier to recycle; and
  • Modeling and analysis tools will be developed and utilized to help direct an efficient path of R&D and to validate the work performed within the center.
University and national laboratory collaborators will use state-of-the-art R&D tools at their home institutions to develop new methods for separating and reclaiming valuable materials from spent EV batteries. Researchers will then scale up the most promising technologies at the ReCell Center, where industrial collaborators can explore the technologies and develop them further. The center will be a collaboration space for researchers from industry, academia and other government laboratories to use R&D tools not found at their own laboratories and to grow pre-commercial technologies.
Dirt Broker Busted
James Philip Lucero was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the unpermitted discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States, including wetlands, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, EPA Special Agent in Charge Jay M. Green, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, and United States Corps of Engineers Deputy San Francisco District Counsel Jesse L. Anderson.  The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, United States District Judge.
On February 21, 2018, a federal jury convicted Lucero, 59, of Carmel, Calif., of violating the Federal Clean Water Act.  The evidence at trial demonstrated Lucero, a self-described “dirt broker,” orchestrated the illegal discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States adjacent to Mowry Slough, part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge located in Newark, Calif.  As a dirt broker, Lucero charged a fee to contractors and trucking companies in exchange for providing open space to dump fill material, including construction debris.  The defendant caused approximately 1800 industrial-sized truckloads of construction debris and fill material to be dumped on private property containing federally-protected wetland and other waters of the United States, without applying for or obtaining a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the EPA or obtaining permission from the landowner.  A federal grand jury handed down a Superseding Indictment on January 31, 2017, charging Lucero with causing dirt, soil, and other materials to be discharged from a point source into waters of the United States, including over ten acres of wetlands and more than an acre of other waters of the United States.  Lucero was convicted on all three counts of unpermitted filling of wetlands and tributaries, in violation of 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311, 1319(c)(2)(A), and 1344. 
“Protecting the long-term health and integrity of San Francisco Bay, including its tributaries, wetlands, connecting waters, and associated plant and wildlife, are of the utmost importance to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson.  “Today’s sentence should serve as a stern warning to anyone contemplating taking steps to illegally dump in the waters of the United States.”
“The tidal marsh at issue in this case is protected under both the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in California.  “Today’s sentence demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate illegal dumping into waters of the United States.”
In addition to the prison term, Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to serve twelve months of supervised release upon his release.  A hearing to determine the amount restitution has been set for May 28, 2019.  Judge Gilliam ordered Lucero to surrender and to begin serving his sentence on April 22, 2019.
Company Agrees to $7 Million Settlement for Unpermitted TCE Emissions
Water Gremlin, a manufacturer located in White Bear Township, has agreed to pay a major penalty for violations of its air quality permit. The recently discovered violation found that the company released the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) into the air above what was allowed in the permit, resulting in exposure within neighborhoods around the facility to TCE levels above health benchmarks set by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Combined, the total value of the settlement will be more than $7 million. The company will pay a civil penalty of $4.5 million, take corrective actions at their site, conduct air monitoring for several years valued at roughly $1 million, and conduct two supplemental environmental projects valued at least $1.5 million.
“The exposures to TCE that these communities suffered should never have happened,” said Minnesota Pollution Control  Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop. “We know this penalty will be small consolation to those who may face increased health risks because they lived near the facility. Still, it is one of the largest environmental penalties in the state’s history, and sends a strong signal of the agency’s expectations.”
TCE is an industrial solvent that is used in some industries and is found in some household products such as adhesives, paint and stain removers, and parts cleaners. Usually it’s in a liquid form, but it is highly volatile, meaning it easily becomes airborne. When it does, the emissions must be properly controlled or they can be harmful to breathe. Water Gremlin used TCE to coat metal parts. The facility’s air permit required pollution control equipment to keep emissions to allowable levels.
In January 2019 an ongoing MPCA investigation discovered the company had not reported that the pollution control equipment had not been operating at its required levels. As a result, TCE was emitted from the facility at levels that may pose a risk to human health over an area extending up to 1.5 miles from the facility. According to MDH, elevated TCE exposures may increase the risk of birth defects and certain types of cancers.
When the MPCA discovered the full extent of the violations in January, the agency demanded that Water Gremlin voluntarily shut down the TCE portion of their operation; the company complied. Bishop said the quick resolution of the investigation and large penalty show the seriousness of the violations.
“The great majority of Minnesota businesses live up to the terms of their emissions permits,” said Bishop. “The lapses in management and pollution control at Water Gremlin are the exception, not the rule in Minnesota.”
The penalty agreement allows Water Gremlin to restart the production line that was the source of the problem — but they must use an alternative, less toxic product than TCE. The company also agreed to place air monitors on all four sides of the property, at their expense, so the community and MPCA can be assured that all emissions are within health limits.
In addition, the company must investigate and report on any potential contamination in the soil and groundwater on its property. If contamination is found the company will be required to clean it up. The State of Minnesota will survey private drinking water wells in the area for TCE this spring.
The agreement includes a requirement for Water Gremlin to spend at least $1.5 million on two projects to benefit human health and the environment. In one project, Water Gremlin will coordinate an education and outreach project for other manufacturers that use TCE. Facilities will be encouraged to switch to alternative products and/or reduce or eliminate their use of TCE. For the other project, Water Gremlin will work to plant and maintain 1,500 trees in public areas in White Bear Lake, Gem Lake, and White Bear Township.
When calculating a penalty, the MPCA factors in the effect of the violation on human health and the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation, economic benefit that may have been gained and how promptly it was reported.
Report Calls for EPA to Strengthen the Science in Its Stormwater Permitting Program
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine offers guidance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to inform the next revision of a permit program that requires industries to manage stormwater to minimize discharges of pollutants to the environment. The report, Improving the EPA Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Stormwater Discharges, recommends several ways that EPA can strengthen the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) program to provide its intended environmental protection while balancing the overall burden of monitoring on industry.
“In general, the adoption of new knowledge into revisions of the MSGP program has been slow, but the program should not be a static enterprise,” said Allen P. Davis, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and professor of civil and environmental engineering and Charles A. Irish Sr. Chair in Civil Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Both permitted facilities and the nation’s waters would be best served by a progressive and continuously improving MSGP based on focused data-gathering efforts and analysis of new data, advances in industrial stormwater science and technology, and structured learning.”
The MSGP is one of three permit programs under the Clean Water Act – the other two govern municipalities and construction sites -- used to regulate discharges of stormwater into local waters. Industrial stormwater is particularly challenging to control because of the wide range of industrial sectors that are included, each of which produces a unique set of contaminants in stormwater, the report notes. 
Under the MSGP, industrial facilities must implement a self-certified stormwater pollution prevention plan, which includes implementation of control measures to reduce pollution levels.  Many facilities must also monitor their stormwater discharge for specific pollutants, and the results are evaluated against benchmark thresholds – the concentrations above which EPA has determined represent a level of concern “that could potentially impair, or contribute to impairing, water quality or affect human health from ingestion of water or fish.”

The report recommends that under the MSGP, EPA should require industry-wide monitoring for pH, total suspended solids (TSS), and chemical oxygen demand (COD) as basic indicators of the effectiveness of stormwater control measures employed on site. These parameters can serve as indicators of poor site management, insufficient stormwater control measures, or failures of these measures, which can lead to high concentrations of these and other pollutants. Industry-wide monitoring of these pollutants would also provide a baseline understanding of industrial stormwater management across all sectors.
The report recommends a tiered approach to monitoring that recognizes the varying levels of risk among different industrial activities and that balances the overall burden to industry and permitting agencies. Low-risk facilities could opt for a permit-term inspection by a certified inspector in lieu of monitoring. Those that do not qualify as low risk would conduct industry-wide monitoring for pH, TSS, and COD. Facilities in sectors that merit more pollution monitoring would also monitor for sector-specific benchmark parameters. Facilities that have repeatedly exceeded benchmarks, or large, complex sites with high potential for pollutant discharges would conduct more rigorous monitoring, potentially taking advantage of additional advanced monitoring and modeling strategies to assess the impacts of these sites.
Based on a review of several sectors, the report notes that benchmark monitoring requirements currently are not consistently applied; for example, in several sectors where stormwater pollutants are expected, little or no benchmark monitoring is required, while other sectors with similar industrial activities may have multiple benchmarks. Therefore, EPA should implement a process that uses new scientific information to periodically review and update sector-specific benchmark monitoring requirements. This process should consider updated industry fact sheets, published literature and industry data, advances in monitoring technology, and other available information, so that the monitoring programs adequately address the classes of pollutants used on site and their potential for environmental contamination.
The report offers a range of additional recommendations to improve the MSGP program. For example, it recommends that benchmark thresholds for pollutants be based on the latest toxicity criteria designed to protect aquatic ecosystems from adverse impacts from short-term or intermittent exposures, given the episodic nature of stormwater flow. It recommends that EPA suspend or remove the benchmarks for magnesium and iron until acute aquatic life criteria are established or benchmarks are developed based on long-term effects from intermittent exposures. It also recommends that EPA update and strengthen protocols, training, and data management tools for industrial stormwater monitoring, sampling, and analysis in order to improve the quality of monitoring data.
In addition, EPA should update the MSGP industrial sector classifications so that monitoring requirements extend to non-industrial facilities with activities and pollution risks similar to those currently covered, the report says. Many facilities generating pollutants of concern in stormwater, such as school bus transportation facilities and fuel storage and fueling facilities, currently are not included in the MSGP because they are not considered industrial.  EPA should examine other facilities with activities similar to regulated facilities and include them in the MSGP so that pollutant risks from these sites can be appropriately reduced.
The study, conducted by the Committee on Improving the Next-Generation EPA Multi-Sector General Permit for Industrial Stormwater Discharges, was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. 
EPA’s Water Reuse Action Plan
At a water reuse workshop in San Francisco, the EPA announced the development of a Water Reuse Action Plan that will leverage the expertise of both industry and government to ensure the effective use of the Nation’s water resources.
Water reuse – sometimes referred to as water recycling – may be viable for various applications, depending on site-specific conditions. Examples include agriculture and irrigation, potable water supplies, groundwater replenishment, industrial processes, and environmental restoration.
In developing the Water Reuse Action Plan, EPA and its partners will evaluate these and other opportunities for reuse to identify the opportunities and challenges in the following areas:  
  • Technological improvements, including development, piloting, validation, and data considerations;
  • Regulatory/policy analysis at all levels of government, including public health considerations and addressing barriers to progress;
  • Financial initiatives, including expansion and clarity in available funding mechanisms;
  • Performance requirements, including efforts to ensure the quality of reused water is appropriate for the intended purpose;
  • Access to water use and availability data, including the encouragement of watershed-based information sharing; and
  • Outreach opportunities, including efforts to ensure public understanding of reused water as part of integrated water management.
“The Nation’s water resources are the lifeblood of our communities, and the federal government has the responsibility to ensure all Americans have access to reliable sources of clean and safe water,” said David Ross, U.S. EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water. “There is innovative work happening across the water sector to advance water reuse, and the EPA wants to accelerate that work through coordinated federal leadership.”
The Water Reuse Action Plan will seek to foster water reuse as an important component of integrated water resource management. EPA will facilitate discussions among federal, state, and water sector stakeholders and form new partnerships to develop and deploy the plan. A draft of the plan is scheduled for release and public review in September at the Annual WateReuse Symposium in San Diego.
EPA’s actions are part of a larger effort by the Administration to better coordinate and focus taxpayer resources on some of the Nation’s most challenging water resource concerns, including ensuring water availability and mitigating the risks posed by droughts. This includes working closely with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other federal partners to collaboratively address western water supply, resiliency, and other resource management challenges.
“The Department of the Interior is excited about forging this partnership with EPA so that we can leverage each other’s success and move forward on one path,” said Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at DOI. “Communities across the country are facing water shortages, and it is the role of the federal government to ensure that all have reliable access to the water needed to protect human health and maintain our robust economy.”
EPA has previously supported water reuse efforts, including development of the 2017 Potable Reuse Compendium and Guidelines for Water Reuse, but the Water Reuse Action Plan is the first initiative of this magnitude that is coordinated across the water sector. Ongoing efforts by other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grand Water Security Challenge, and by various non-governmental organizations dedicated to water resources management, will be coordinated and leveraged as part of the overarching strategy to advance water reuse.
For more information, including opportunities to engage with EPA on this effort, visit
Washington State Adoption of Generator Improvements Rule
The Washington Department of Ecology’s newly amended dangerous waste regulations are now available on-line at the Washington State code reviser website:
These new regulations, which incorporate EPA’s hazardous waste generator improvemens rule, will not be in effect until April 28, 2019.
The website shows both rule sections that are currently in effect and those that will be in effect come April 28, 2019. You can also access the older 2014 rules currently in effect at:
Ecology will hold a public webinar to explain the changes on March 20th, 10 am to 12 pm. It is not necessary to pre-register, although that is an option. Prior to joining the webinar just give your name and email address.
Event Number: 803 549 071
Event Password: Ecology1
EPA Retains National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set NAAQS for criteria pollutants. Currently, SO2 and five other major pollutants are listed as criteria pollutants. The law also requires EPA to periodically review the relevant scientific information and primary (health-based) standards. If appropriate, EPA revises the standards to ensure they provide requisite protection for public health, allowing for an adequate margin of safety.
EPA announced its final decision to retain without changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide (SO2). This decision comes after carefully reviewing the most recent available scientific evidence and risk and exposure information and consulting with the agency’s independent science advisors.
“The United States has made great strides in reducing SO2 concentrations,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum. “Based on review of the scientific literature, recommendation from our independent science advisors, and public comment, we have concluded that the existing standard continues to provide adequate health protection to our most vulnerable populations.”
As a result of Clean Air Act programs and efforts by state, local and tribal governments as well as technological improvements, SO2 concentrations in the U.S. fell by more than 85 percent between 1990 and 2017 and more than 60% since 2010. These data accompany similar long-term trends showing air quality improvements:
  • Between 1970 and 2017, combined emissions of six common air pollutants declined by 73 percent, while the U.S. economy increased more than 260%
  • EPA’s latest report on power plant emissions also shows that SO2 emissions from power plants fell six percent between 2017 and 2018
  • Since 1990, annual emissions of SO2 from power plants fell by 92 percent, and annual emissions of NOx from power plants fell by 84%
The EPA and its independent advisors on this topic, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), agreed that this existing standard continues to provide health protection and “that the current scientific literature does not support revision of the primary NAAQS for SO2.”
Facilities to Be Reviewed Under New Cleaner Air Oregon Rules Listed
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has identified 20 industrial sites for review in the first year of implementing the newly adopted Cleaner Air Oregon rules. The facilities were selected based on preliminary emissions reports and other factors. Regulators will now conduct more in-depth analysis to determine whether the facilities pose health risks and if air permits should be revised.
“This is an important step in initiating this program following the direction of Governor Brown and the Oregon Legislature,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “Cleaner Air Oregon will close the gap in the state’s program for regulating industrial air toxics.”
The agency followed a protocol established during the Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking process to select permitted facilities to review in the first year. DEQ used both quantitative and qualitative screening factors, such as preliminary reports on the amount of materials released by each facility and the facility’s proximity to people and vulnerable populations, as well as qualitative factors, such as data completeness and accuracy.
The decision as to which facilities to review first was not based on a health risk assessment. DEQ will determine health risks from emissions of toxic air contaminants after a facility completes a health risk assessment in the next phase of the Cleaner Air Oregon program. DEQ expects to review 20 facilities in the first year:
Eastern Office
AmeriTies West, LLC
Chemical Waste Management of the Northwest, Inc.
Collins Pine Company - Lakeview
Oil Re-Refining Company
Northwest Office
Columbia Steel Casting Co., Inc.
Eagle Foundry Co.
EcoLube Recovery LLC
Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc.
Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc.
PCC Structurals, Inc. - Large Parts Campus
PCC Structurals, Inc. - SSBO
Stimson Lumber Company
Wolf Steel Foundry, Inc.
Western Office
Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, Inc.
Covanta Marion, Inc.
Entek International LLC
Georgia-Pacific Toledo LLC
Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Company
Packaging Corporation of America
Roseburg Forest Products Co. - Medford
DEQ will begin its work with six facilities, two in each of its operational regions: Eastern Office - AmeriTies West, LLC and Chemical Waste Management of the Northwest, Inc.; Northwest Office - Columbia Steel Casting Co., Inc. and Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc.; and Western Office - Entek International LLC and Roseburg Forest Products Co. - Medford. DEQ will continue to call in other Group 1 facilities over the next year, followed by Group 2 and Group 3. A detailed list of the groups is provided in the Cleaner Air Oregon Facility Prioritization Results report (
New facilities applying for an air permit need to identify potential air toxics emissions and assess associated risks before submitting their permit application. Applications for permit modifications do not trigger Cleaner Air Oregon requirements, unless they are making a major modification to their facility.
Community engagement remains a fundamental priority for the development and implementation of Cleaner Air Oregon. DEQ and OHA have dedicated staff to engage facilities and communities, including a community engagement coordinator, a technical assistance coordinator and a public health educator.
DEQ will host a public information session to provide an overview of the program and answer questions regarding Cleaner Air Oregon. The date, time and location will be announced in the near future.
Recycler Fined $553,750 for Exporting, Rather than Safely Recycling Electronics
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced a $553,750 settlement with Total Reclaim, Inc. The settlement resolves the state’s long-running investigation into TRI’s operations under Oregon’s E-Cycles program, a program that encourages Oregon consumers to recycle electronic devices in a safe and sustainable manner. This settlement follows resolution of a related DEQ penalty action against TRI in September, 2018 for alleged violation of the state’s hazardous waste laws. The Oregon E-Cycles recycling program also has severed ties with TRI.
The state investigation showed that TRI falsely claimed that it had complied with Oregon E-Cycles requirements that its operations properly protect workers and the environment. In reality, TRI concealed that it was using a Seattle broker to ship millions of pounds of electronic waste—including potentially toxic LCD screens used in televisions and other products—to unregulated facilities in Hong Kong. TRI engaged in this fraud for nearly seven years while representing that it was safely recycling electronic devices collected through the E-Cycles program and billing the Oregon program. The fraudulent activity by TRI was discovered through a large-scale GPS tracking program conducted by the non-profit Basel Action Network.
“Recycling is big business in Oregon, and we Oregonians take pride that we recycle our old electronics. But we need to be able to trust that they are actually going to be recycled—and not simply dumped in another country. We hope this settlement demonstrates that we are serious about holding the recycling business accountable to responsible recycling,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “Public recycling programs like our E-Cycles Program are vitally important to the environment and to the interests of the taxpayers and consumers they serve. The Oregon Department of Justice will continue to hold those who contract with the state fully accountable when they fail, as they did here, to live up to the public’s trust.”
DEQ Director Richard Whitman said, “Oregonians have a strong recycling ethic, and we have a duty to assure our residents that when they use the E-Cycles Program their materials are being safely and properly managed.” “This settlement underscores that Oregon DEQ is determined to maintain Oregon’s strong recycling systems,” said Whitman.
On Nov. 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice also filed criminal charges against Jeff Zirkle and Craig Lorch in the Western District of Washington, and on Nov. 16, 2018, the owners pled guilty to the charges. Sentencing will occur later this year.
TRI was once one of the largest recyclers of electronic waste in Oregon and helped establish the Oregon E-Cycle program. E-Cycles is a statewide program, financed by manufacturers, that provides responsible recycling of computers, monitors, printers, keyboards, mice and TVs. Anyone bringing seven or fewer items at one time may recycle their electronics at no charge at participating collection sites. The Oregon E-Cycles program requires participating electronics processors to follow environmental management practices to protect workers and the environment. One requirement is the identification of all downstream processors and verification of those processors, “to the point at which materials become a single material commodity suitable for final processing,” meet DEQ standards.
As part of the settlement, TRI agreed to pay $553,750 to Oregon. Oregon’s Department of Justice will distribute $470,000 of the payment to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to support recycling efforts with the remainder covering the costs of the DOJ investigation and legal fees.
Gallo Winery Fined for RMP Violations
EPA has reached a settlement with E. & J. Gallo Winery to resolve risk management violations at its wine production facility in Fresno, Calif. E. & J. Gallo Winery, the world’s largest privately held wine company, will pay a $57,839 civil penalty and spend an estimated $350,000 to reduce the risk of chemical accidents at its facility.
In 2015, EPA inspectors found violations of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan regulations. The violations included deficiencies in the plant’s hazard assessment, process safety information, operating procedures, mechanical integrity program, compliance audits, incident investigations, and emergency response program.
“Facilities that store and use hazardous substances must follow federal requirements to protect communities and the environment from potentially catastrophic accidents,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “Today’s action will bring investment in safety improvements to this Fresno facility.”
Proper implementation of a risk management plan helps facilities that store large amounts of regulated hazardous substances prevent and prepare for chemical accidents. The E. & J. Gallo Winery’s industrial refrigeration system uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical highly corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs.
E. & J. Gallo Winery addressed all of the identified violations. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $350,000 to enhance safety equipment and procedures at the Fresno facility. The project includes installing new valves and upgrading emergency shutoff switches allowing an operator or emergency responder to remotely shut down the ammonia refrigeration systems, including in an emergency situation.
For more information on EPA’s National Compliance Initiative related to reducing risks of accidental releases at ammonia refrigeration facilities, see:
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