Polymers, found in single-use plastic applications, contribute to landfill waste. One way to eliminate their disposal is through upcycling, which transforms plastics into high-value products. Conversion processes like pyrolysis and gasification make reuse possible. However, this can be costly because of the challenges associated with a plastic’s composition, processing history and reaction temperature.
“Substances that stabilize polymers could be developed to minimize or even eliminate the need for presorting plastic mixtures,” ORNL’s Xianhui Zhao said. “This would allow for more widespread conversion at a much lower cost.”
OSHA has extended the comment period for the COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard to Jan. 19, 2022. OSHA extended the comment period by 45 days to allow stakeholders additional time to review the ETS and collect information and data necessary for comment.
Topics discussed included illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal mining, and waste and hazardous substances trafficking, and possible solutions for better understanding the related illicit flows.
Environmental crimes encompass illegal activity that harms human health, and harms nature and natural resources by damaging environmental quality. This can include driving biodiversity loss, causing the overexploitation of natural resources, and thereby increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. FinCEN is focusing on environmental crimes because of an upward trend in these activities and their related financial flows; their strong association with two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) priorities, specifically corruption and transnational criminal organizations; and their contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises. The Financial Action Task Force has estimated that global environmental crimes generate hundreds of billions in illicit proceeds annually. These crimes frequently and increasingly involve transnational organized crime and corruption, and are often associated with a variety of other crimes including money laundering, bribery, theft, forgery, tax evasion, fraud, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.
Global environmental crimes are estimated by some international organizations to generate hundreds of billions in illicit proceeds annually and now rank as the third largest illicit activity in the world following the trafficking of drugs and counterfeit goods. The international police organization Interpol estimates that total proceeds from environmental crimes are growing at a rate of at least 5% per year. Furthermore, there is reporting that in conflict zones, environmental crimes, including illegal exploitation and theft of oil, provide an estimated 38% of illicit income to armed groups, more than any other illicit activity, including drug trafficking.
Environmental crimes encompass illegal activity that harm human health, and harm nature and natural resources by damaging environmental quality, including increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, driving biodiversity loss, and causing the overexploitation of natural resources. This category of crimes includes wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal mining, and waste and hazardous substances trafficking. These crimes are relatively low risk activities with high rewards because enforcement efforts are limited, demand for the products and services generated by these crimes is high, and criminal penalties are not as severe as for other illicit activities. Environmental crimes frequently involve transnational organized crime and corruption and are often associated with a variety of other crimes including money laundering, bribery, theft, forgery, tax evasion, fraud, human trafficking, and drug trafficking. See appendix for additional information on each type of illicit activity.
OSHA has extended the period for submitting comments on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. Comments on the ANPRM must now be submitted by Jan. 26, 2022.
The 30-day extension
provides stakeholders more time to review the ANPRM and collect information and data necessary for comment.
Currently, OSHA does not have a heat-specific standard to protect millions of workers in indoor and outdoor work settings from exposure to hazardous heat conditions. In recent months, OSHA has initiated several efforts to protect workers from heat-related illnesses
and deaths while working in hazardously hot indoor and outdoor environments. In addition to pursuing a heat-specific workplace rule, OSHA instituted a heat-related enforcement initiative
and plans to issue a National Emphasis Program for heat-related safety efforts in 2022.
The agency began the process of considering a heat-specific workplace rule to address heat-related illnesses when it published the ANPRM
on Oct. 27, 2021. Submit comments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2021-0009, electronically at www.regulations.gov
, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. The Federal e-Rulemaking Portal is the only way to submit comments on this ANPRM.
Water Testing Lab Decertified
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has revoked the license of a water-testing laboratory after a state investigation determined that the company, Environmental Testing and Research Laboratories, Inc. (ETR) of Leominster, repeatedly failed to properly analyze private drinking water samples and report the test results in accordance with its certification and state regulations.
ETR’s decertification follows a comprehensive undercover investigation conducted by MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force (ESF) and the agency’s Laboratory Certification Program – Division of Environmental Laboratory Sciences (DELS), which was upheld in a final decision by MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg following an appeal and subsequent adjudicatory hearing on the license revocation.
“Vigorous, careful and targeted enforcement ensures a level playing field for the overwhelming majority of certified laboratories that comply with state regulations,” said ESF Director Pamela Talbot. “We investigate these kinds of complaints to ensure that consumers can trust that drinking water tested by certified labs is done so in accordance with all state requirements intended to protect the public health.”
“We expect all laboratories certified for the analysis of drinking water to consistently meet all state laboratory certification regulations in order to protect public health, and rigorously investigate and decertify laboratories that intentionally violate certification requirements,” said DELS Director Oscar Pancorbo, Ph.D.
Staff from DELS and ESF began the investigation following numerous complaints from local boards of health and homeowners suspicious of or confused by ETRs testing and reporting practices. ETR performed testing and reporting services primarily for owners of private water supplies and held certification from MassDEP’s Laboratory Certification Program for the analysis of drinking water.
The ESF conducted interviews with affected homeowners and board of health officials. The Laboratory Certification Program and ESF then inspected ETR’s laboratory facilities and partnered with a certified third-party to arrange for a series of professionally prepared “double-blind” water samples. ESF investigators, posing as homeowners from various parts of Massachusetts, then sent the spiked water samples to ETR for analysis and reporting of test results.
The results delivered by ETR showed that the laboratory had reported the existence of certain bacteria, fungi and chemicals that did not and could not exist in the sterile and spiked samples that undercover investigators had sent for testing. Homeowners receiving such reports from ETR had expressed confusion and concern upon receiving those results. The reports that the undercover ESF investigators received from ETR were very similar to those that alarmed or concerned homeowners and local health officials.
The results of the undercover investigation, and the ruling in the final appeals decision, showed that ETR violated the Laboratory Certification regulations by:
- Performing careless and inaccurate reporting of analytical measurements;
- Engaging in unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices;
- Performing, reporting, or failing to report drinking water analyses in a manner that threatened public health; and
- Making false, inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading statements in laboratory reports.
The final decision issued by Commissioner Suuberg also found that ETR could not have produced valid data because its results were neither technically sound nor legally defensible. The following MassDEP staffers conducted the investigation: DELS Director Pancorbo and Laboratory Certification Program Director Lisa Touet of the MassDEP Senator William X. Wall Experiment Station, and ESF Director Talbot, ESF Attorney Jennifer Davis, and ESF Investigators Stephen Spencer, Tim Dame, Jennifer Macionus, Mike Whiteside and Greg Levins.
To read the full decision on the ETR appeal case, turn here
. To report a crime to the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force, call 1-888-846-5283 or turn here
for further options.
Clean Car Rules Proposed in New Mexico
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) petitioned the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to consider clean car rules at a hearing proposed for May 2022. The petition
includes the proposed rules and a statement of reasons for their recommended adoption.
Pollution from transportation accounts for a large portion of New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions and contributes heavily to the state’s growing ozone problem. Seven New Mexico counties are nearing problematic ground-level ozone levels, which cause respiratory illnesses and disproportionately affect the state’s most vulnerable populations. Vehicle standards can significantly improve air quality, including ground-level ozone levels, including in urban areas which are often made up of traditionally disadvantaged populations.
“The Environment Department is proposing to adopt rules that will bring more alternative powered vehicle choices to auto dealerships across the state,” said Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “When adopted, New Mexico will join over a dozen other states where consumers already have greater access to cleaner vehicle options. In bringing more clean cars to New Mexico, air quality will improve as we commute to work, take our kids to school, run errands around town, or explore this great state.”
The proposed clean car rules will decrease health risks to New Mexicans from heart attacks, chronic lung disease, bronchitis, and asthma. By 2030, the rules will result in the reduction of about 400 tons of harmful air emissions and 270,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually.
The Environment Department developed the clean car rules over a period of seven months with extensive stakeholder engagement. Constructive feedback was received throughout the process from auto dealers, auto makers, the agriculture industry, community advocates, environmental organizations and over 100 individual New Mexicans.
The EIB will consider NMED’s petition at their monthly 9 a.m. meeting on December 17th, 2021
. At this meeting, NMED will ask the EIB for a coordinated rulemaking proceeding in May of 2022 alongside the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board. NMED and the Air Quality Control Board are requesting the joint rulemaking to ensure the standards are consistent statewide. Members of the public and other interested persons will have opportunities to provide input on the proposed rules before and during the regulatory hearing. Additional information is available at The Road to Clean Cars New Mexico
For additional information on the clean car rulemaking, contact Claudia Borchert at NMED at 505-699-8489 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up
to receive Clean Cars New Mexico email updates.
Project Monitor and Abatement Company Owner Sentenced to Jail and Fined $399,000 for Conspiring To Violate Asbestos Regulations
Kristofer Landell and Stephanie Laskin were sentenced on December 1 before U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy sitting in Binghamton, New York, for conspiring to violate Clean Air Act regulations that control the safe removal, handling and disposal of asbestos.
Judge McAvoy sentenced Landell and Laskin to eight months and ten months of incarceration respectively, as well as three years of supervised release, during which time defendants must surrender any asbestos-related licenses. Co-defendants Roger Osterhoudt, Gunay Yakup and Madeline Alonge were all sentenced to three years’ probation in early November. All five defendants were further ordered to pay approximately $399,000 in restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its costs related to cleaning up the now-contaminated site in Kingston, New York, known as the “Tech City property.” The defendants may also be ordered to pay additional monies to members of the community who were potentially exposed to hazardous air pollutants as a result of the defendants’ conspiracy.
According to court-filed documents, Landell, Laskin, Yakup, and Alonge engaged in a year-long conspiracy to violate federal and New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) regulations intended to prevent human exposure to asbestos. More specifically, between 2015 and 2016, Landell and Laskin both permitted, and in some cases directed, abatement workers to remove asbestos from the TechCity Property illegally by stripping regulated asbestos containing materials without properly containing the work area and removing the asbestos dry, thus allowing airborne fibers to escape into the surrounding environment. In an effort to conceal those crimes, Landell, acting in his capacity as an air- and project-monitor, concealed these violations by fabricating and falsifying paperwork required by EPA and the State of New York. The conspirators also engaged in other efforts to deceive authorities, such as by failing to conduct air-monitoring and falsifying at least one NYSDOL-required “final air clearance.” Despite the defendants’ efforts to conceal their crimes, NYSDOL inspectors found numerous violations during the course of the year-long project and issued notices of violation. Conditions at the TechCity Property deteriorated until NYSDOL shut down operations in August 2016 and directed the defendants and their companies to cease all work. Notwithstanding this NYSDOL order, the defendants continued operations for a short time, prompting a criminal investigation.
In his plea agreement, Osterhoudt, the Vice President of Property Management for TechCity, admitted that as a result of the defendants’ illegal asbestos removal, there was likely a release of asbestos contamination into the environment that placed others at an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. Given that EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, the United States has endeavored to identify all those persons in close proximity to the illegal asbestos operations during the TechCity project and is seeking restitution on behalf of all those potentially exposed to airborne asbestos contamination during the relevant time period. That process is ongoing.
Special agents of the EPA investigated the case with the assistance of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and information provided by the NYSDOL Asbestos Control Bureau and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The case was prosecuted by Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of the Environmental Crimes Section.
Louisville Gas & Electric Company Fined $750,000 for Air Emissions
In a proposed consent decree
lodged in U.S. District Court, Louisville Gas & Electric Company (LG&E) has agreed to permanent emission limits for the sulfuric acid mist that it emits from its Mill Creek Station, located in Jefferson County, Kentucky. LG&E also agreed to perform a congressionally authorized diesel-emissions reduction supplemental environmental project aimed at reducing ground-level emissions to resolve allegations that it emitted too much sulfuric acid mist in violation of the Clean Air Act.
, filed in July 2020, alleges that LG&E failed to timely install and operate emission control technology and operated its facility, including its boilers and nitrogen oxide controls, in a manner that exacerbated sulfuric acid mist emissions. As a result, the utility’s coal combustion operations emitted high levels of sulfuric acid mist, affecting the surrounding community and violating certain federally enforceable general provisions of Kentucky’s Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan.
“This settlement will ensure that this utility permanently controls emissions of a harmful air pollutant,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement demonstrates the Justice Department’s and EPA’s continuing efforts, together with our local partners, to reduce harmful air pollution caused by poor air pollution control practices.”
“By establishing a permanent limit on emissions of sulfuric acid mist from Louisville Gas & Electric’s Mill Creek facility, this settlement will help protect future air quality for local communities,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “An additional provision of the settlement will improve local air quality, including in historically underserved communities, by reducing diesel emissions from the company’s truck fleet.”
“These permanent emissions limits continue the work of protecting the air for the people of Louisville,” said Director Rachael Hamilton of the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District (LMAPCD). “This settlement will have a positive impact on air quality, and it could not have been done without the combined efforts of the Justice Department, EPA, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell and his office, and our own staff at LMAPCD.”
As part of the settlement, the company will also pay a $750,000 civil penalty and will incorporate into its service fleet trucks that use battery rather than diesel power when performing power line maintenance or construction. The project will reduce ground-level emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxides and other pollutants. The project also will reduce emissions of approximately 180,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Because the settlement requires all of the trucks to be stationed at LG&E’s service center in Auburndale, the benefits of the project will be realized in the surrounding communities, including historically underserved communities.
Two Men Indicted for Dumping Oily Substance in Chugach National Forest
A federal grand jury in Anchorage returned an indictment charging two men from Seward, Alaska, with disposing of fifteen 55-gallon drums of an oily substance at the Granite Creek Recreation Area in the Chugach National Forest and causing the contents to leak.
According to court documents, James Withrow, 56, and Bruce Jackson, aka “Bruce Baker,” 66, removed seventeen 55-gallon drums from Jackson’s property in Seward on May 31, 2018, and placed them on a tractor trailer being driven by Withrow. The two men then drove to Anchorage. The next day, on June 1, Withrow drove the tractor trailer off the Seward Highway down a marked “No Dumping” “No Public Access” road at approximately mile 62 of the Seward Highway. He then parked and dumped fifteen of the seventeen 55-gallon drums onto the property of the U.S. Forest Service contaminating the ground with the oily contents causing damages of approximately $80,000. Additionally, on June 7, 2018, Withrow made false statements about the disposal of the oily substance to a U.S. Forest Service Special Agent.
The defendants are scheduled for their initial court appearance on December 13 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kyle F. Reardon of the U.S. District Court of Alaska. If convicted, Withrow could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and Jackson could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson of the District of Alaska made the announcement. The U.S. Forest Service and EPA Criminal Investigation Division are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Skrocki and Charisse Arce are prosecuting the case.
NDEE Understanding Air Permitting Thresholds Webinar Dec. 15
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will present its Understanding Air Permitting Thresholds webinar on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, at 11 a.m. This webinar is intended for anyone seeking a better understanding of the different air permits needed and required on the basis of emissions or operational controls.
The Understanding Air Permitting Thresholds Webinar will cover the basics of the type of air permit needed when emission calculations are above or below certain emission limits, what it means to be a “No Operating Permit Required” facility, and will discuss requirements under each scenario. The webinar is open to the general public and the regulated community.
Richmond Construction Inc., Faces $374K In Penalties After Fatal Worker Fall
A federal workplace safety investigation has found a Queens construction contractor failed to provide and ensure the use of effective fall protection safeguards that would have prevented the death of a worker who fell about 60 feet from a roof on May 27, 2021, during demolition of a Brooklyn building.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Richmond Construction Inc. failed to provide and require the use of all required safeguards related to fall protection. A worker engaged in demolishing a building at 1045 Flatbush Ave. fell from the roof to the building’s interior. Investigators also determined that the company failed to train its workers to recognize and avoid fall hazards.
OSHA cited Richmond Construction for nine willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed penalties totaling $374,603. OSHA determined that Richmond Construction failed to:
- Provide employees with effective fall protection and fall protection training.
- Have a competent person inspect the roof, lifeline systems and fall arrest harnesses before the employees started work. A competent person has the knowledge to spot hazards and the authority to correct them.
- Have a qualified person supervise the design, installation and use of the horizontal lifeline.
- Ensure the lifeline system was capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.
- Ensure employees did not connect their fall protection lanyards to anchor points below their harness rings.
- Provide eye and ear protection to employees operating jackhammers.
“Richmond Construction Inc. ignored its legal responsibility to protect workers from falls and the result was the loss of a worker’s life,” said OSHA Area Director Kay Gee in New York City. “Complying with OSHA standards is not optional. It is required to ensure workers return home unharmed at the end of the day.”
Richmond Construction has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7). Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training
is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training
, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Trivia Question of the Week