President Unveils U.S. Plan to Curb Global Warming

October 01, 2007

Last week, President Bush announced his plans for reducing carbon emissions and other steps the administration is taking to curb global warming.  

New Report Sets Target for U.S. Emissions Cuts

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and scientists at Stanford University and Texas Tech University, the world needs to stabilize the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere to no more than 450 parts per million in order to avoid the most severe effects of climate change. This limit aims to avoid exceeding a 2 degree Celsius increase in global average temperature above preindustrial levels (roughly equivalent to a 2 degree Fahrenheit rise above current temperatures).

Stabilizing gases above this level likely would lead to severe risks to natural systems and human health. Sustained warming of this magnitude could, for example, result in the extinction of many species and increase the threat of extensive melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

"Hitting this target for heat-trapping gases would give us a fighting chance to avoid the worst consequences of global warming," said Amy Luers, UCS California climate manager and one of the study’s authors. "The study assumes both developing and industrialized countries would cut their emissions to avoid such a temperature increase. However, even with other countries taking aggressive action, the United States must make deep cuts."

The study found that the United States must cut its emissions by at least 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050 if the world is to stay within the prescribed atmospheric concentration limit. According to the study, cutting emissions soon is essential.

"The cost of delay is high," said Michael D. Mastrandrea, research associate at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. "If we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we'll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target."

U.S. policies under consideration vary in the timing and levels of emission cuts called for and many fail to achieve the minimum pollution cuts needed.

"This report makes clear that the United States must make meaningful cuts in global warming pollution, and soon, to reduce the risk of severe climate impacts," said Alden Meyer, UCS director of strategy and policy. "President Bush should drop his opposition to mandatory emissions limits and put forward a specific proposal to aggressively reduce U.S. emissions at the meeting of major emitting countries that he is hosting next week."

 One measure was introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the other by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

DOT Updates Guide for Shipping Hazardous Materials

The DOT is updating it guide on how to use its hazardous materials regulations. Under a new program, the agency is asking for your comments on the guide. You can view or download a copy of the draft guide at 

Wastewater Operator Training Program

EPA’s Wastewater Operator Training Program was implemented in 1982 under Section 104(g) (1) of the Clean Water Act. The program provides approximately $1 million annually to improve compliance at small publicly owned wastewater treatment plants with a discharge of less than 5 million gallons per day. Nationally, 46 states or training centers receive the funding and are able to assist, on average, about 700 facilities a year to either satisfy NPDES compliance or improve performance. In the 2006 calendar year, the program assisted 659 small facilities and prevented 4.3 million pounds of pollutants from entering the surface water.


EPA Strengthens Lead in Drinking Water Rule

EPA is helping to reduce lead in drinking water by issuing a final rule that will improve requirements in the areas of monitoring, customer awareness, and lead service line replacement. Specifically, the agency will require water suppliers to provide consumers with information to help them make decisions about how to limit their exposure to lead in drinking water.

"Today's action will help get the lead out and keep it out of our drinking water," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for Water. "The public must have confidence in the safety of their tap water, which is, ounce-for-ounce, one of America's greatest and most affordable assets. EPA's targeted improvements will clarify requirements for utilities and provide more timely and useful information for the public."

The final rule is one outcome of EPA's March 2005 Drinking Water Lead Reduction Plan, which arose from EPA's analysis of the current regulation and state and local implementation. Since the plan’s release, the agency has issued guidance to help public water systems better understand the potential impacts of treatment changes on their ability to control lead and asked the National Drinking Water Advisory Council to provide recommendations on public education requirements. The agency also has provided new or updated guidance and tools to help schools and child care facilities to monitor for lead in drinking water.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around homes. Even at low levels, lead may cause a range of health effects including behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Children six years old and under are most at risk because of brain development. The primary source of lead exposure for most children is lead-based paint in older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to that exposure.

Winery Fined $11,687 for Failure to Report Ammonia Release

EPA recently fined Diamond Oaks Winery $11,687 for failing to make the required notifications after an ammonia release at its Oakville, Calif., plant.

The company failed to immediately report the ammonia release to the National Response Center, violating EPA reporting requirements. The incident was reported a month later in September 2006.

“Companies have a responsibility to immediately report toxic chemical releases,” said Keith Takata, Superfund division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This information needs to be provided quickly so that authorities are better able to respond to the emergency.”

In August 2006, an employee at the winery, located at 1595 Oakville Grade, discovered that a pressure gauge and seal on a compressor motor had failed, leading to the release of 750 to 800 pounds of ammonia.

Exposure to ammonia can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, with extreme exposure possibly causing death. 

Federal law requires immediate notification of the release of a reportable quantity of a hazardous substance, such as ammonia, in order to allow emergency response teams an opportunity to evaluate the nature and extent of the release, prevent exposure to the hazardous substance, and minimize consequences to public health and the environment. The reportable quantity for ammonia is 100 pounds.

Wal-Mart Announces Carbon Disclosure Project to Measure Energy Used to Create Products

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., announced on September 26 a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to measure the amount of energy used to create products throughout its supply chain, including the procurement, manufacturing, and distribution process. Using this measurement tool, Wal-Mart will initiate a pilot with a group of suppliers to look for new and innovative ways to make the entire process more energy efficient.

“This is an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing non-renewable energy from the products Wal-Mart sells,” said John Fleming, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Wal-Mart Stores Division. “This is an opportunity to spur innovation and efficiency throughout our supply chain that will not only help protect the environment but save people money at the same time.”

The pilot will focus on seven product categories to determine the overall environmental impact of products and look for innovative ways to drive energy efficiency. The seven product categories—DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners, and soda—were identified because they are ordinary products that customers commonly use.

“The partnership between CDP and Wal-Mart is a significant milestone in corporate action to mitigate climate change,” said CDP Chief Executive Paul Dickinson. “By engaging its supply chain in the CDP process, Wal-Mart will encourage its suppliers to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately reduce the total carbon footprint of Wal-Mart’s indirect emissions. We look forward to other global corporations following Wal-Mart’s lead and partnering with CDP.”

One supplier, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, initiated a supply chain analysis of the carbon impact of the production, manufacture, and distribution of its DVDs. More than 20 of Fox’s key suppliers embraced the study by supplying detailed information on their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Fox found an eagerness among suppliers to share their emissions, initiate projects to reduce their climate impact, and save money. The analysis led to an industry standard for measuring the carbon impact of DVDs and instructed the methodology for other consumer packaged goods.

NASA Finds Greenland Snow Melting Hit Record High in High Places

A new NASA-supported study reports that 2007 marked an overall rise in the melting trend over the entire Greenland ice sheet and, remarkably, melting in high-altitude areas was greater than ever at 150% more than average. In fact, the amount of snow that has melted this year over Greenland could cover the surface size of the United States more than twice.

Marco Tedesco, a research scientist at the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, cooperatively managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, used satellite data to compare average snow melting from 1988–2006 with what has taken place this summer. He found that in high altitude areas over 1.2 miles above sea level, the melting index—an indicator of where melting is occurring and for how long—was significantly higher than average. Melting over those areas occurred 25–30 days longer this year than the observed average in the previous 19 years.

"When snow melts at those high altitudes and then refreezes, it can absorb up to four times more energy than fresh, unthawed snow," said Tedesco. "This can affect Earth's energy budget by changing how much radiation from the sun is absorbed by the Earth versus that reflected back into the atmosphere. Refrozen snow can also alter the snow density, thickness, and snow-water content." Tedesco's findings were published September 25 in the American Geophysical Union's Eos newspaper.

Researchers determine the melting index by multiplying how long melting took place by the area where the increased melting took place. According to Tedesco, melting in April and May of this year in high-altitude areas was very low, but in June melting jumped unexpectedly and led to the record melting index for the year.

"This record melting index in those areas came as a bit of a surprise, showing us, once again, the extreme variability and complexity of these processes," said Tedesco. His expertise in documenting melting trends produced other recent studies on increased snow melting over Greenland and the Antarctic.

The data collected by the Special Sensor Microwave Imagers on the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites provided Tedesco with insight into how much of an electromagnetic signal was naturally emitted by snow and ice in areas beneath the satellite overpass. The microwave instruments can detect melting above and below the snow surface. The data were processed at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., in just 24 hours after the satellite overpass, enabling Tedesco to quickly spot changes that could signal a melting trend or new record.

Tedesco's work also confirmed that the melting index this year in lower altitude areas of Greenland, though not record-breaking, was higher than average by 30 percent, placing 2007 in fifth place for the highest melting index after 2005, 2002, 1998, and 2004, in that order.

"Increases in the overall melting trend over Greenland have an impact that stretches beyond its icy shores," said Tedesco. "Aside from contributing to direct sea level rise, melting especially along the coast can speed up glaciers since the melt water acts like a lubricant between the frozen surface and the bedrock deep below. The faster glaciers flow, the more water enters the ocean and potentially impacts sea level rise." Tedesco, along with U.S. and European colleagues, plans to combine satellite data with related climate model results. He plans to visit Greenland in 2008 to compare his findings from space-borne data with those obtained by ground-based sensors, all with an eye to gathering further clues of what is happening on Greenland.

New Jersey DEP Targets Enforcement on Sites That Don’t Monitor Contamination

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection is launching enforcement actions against approximately 950 responsible parties who have failed to monitor and report on the condition of caps, areas of groundwater contamination, and status of deed notices as required under department-approved remediation plans, Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.

"We realize that the state's system that allows self-reporting for monitoring of these contaminated properties is broken, and we are taking the first steps toward fixing this," Commissioner Jackson said. "Still, this situation seriously undermines the department's ability to ensure protection of public health and the environment. We are committed to using every enforcement tool available to bring these responsible parties into compliance as promptly as possible."

The DEP published on its website an alert notifying the responsible parties that they face enforcement actions. 

The DEP will begin issuing notices of violation this week. Penalties could be assessed at $8,000 for every day out of compliance.

Laws governing contaminated site cleanups currently allow measures to be in place to ensure remedies, such as cap construction, remain protective. Measures include deed restrictions to alert any future property owners that an engineering control or use restriction is being utilized at the property.

The law also allows responsible parties to delineate certain areas of groundwater contamination and requires regular monitoring to ensure that site conditions have not changed since the area was established.

As a condition of the department's approval of these remedies, the responsible parties agreed to evaluate site conditions and submit a report every other year through a document known as a Biennial Certification.

In September 2006, DEP adopted Grace Period rules that classified the failure to submit Biennial Certifications as a "non-minor" violation subject to penalties. In March, the DEP sent out nearly 2,100 letters advising that an amnesty period for attaining compliance with the rules would expire Sept. 18, 2007.

The properties subject to the letters include commercial and residential redevelopment sites, industrial sites, gas stations, and public institutions.

Of the responsible parties sent notifications, approximately 840 responded by returning the necessary biennial certifications, work plans, or requests for an extension. The department is investigating approximately 300 additional sites to determine if enforcement action is warranted.


Phoenix Home Builder Fined $155,000 to Settle Dust Violations

The EPA has fined Richmond American Homes of Arizona, Inc., $155,000 for alleged dust violations that occurred at five residential construction sites in Maricopa County. The violations were discovered during routine inspections from 2003 to 2005 conducted by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

“Maricopa County's particulate air pollution continues to be a serious problem, and companies not complying with fugitive dust control laws are one of the causes,” said Deborah Jordan, the EPA’s Air Division Director for the Pacific Southwest Region. “The EPA works closely with the Maricopa County Air Quality Department to enforce these laws and send the message that noncompliance will not be tolerated.”

From November 2003 to January 2005, Richmond allegedly failed to comply with Maricopa County rules during earth-moving and dust-generating operations at construction projects. Maricopa County inspectors discovered the following violations:

  • Failure to use a suitable control device to remove dirt from vehicle tires exiting construction sites
  • Failure to immediately clean up dirt tracked out 50 feet beyond the site
  • Failure to spray disturbed surface areas with water while conducting earth-moving operations on an acre or more
  • Failure to implement approved control measures, while conducting a dust generating activity

“The resolution in this case is a step in the right direction in improving air quality in Maricopa County and our quality of life,” said Daniel G. Knauss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.

As part of the settlement, all current and new company employees involved in dust-generating activities must complete dust-control training, the company must certify every six months that training is up-to-date and employ a qualified dust control coordinator at all Maricopa County sites equaling or exceeding 50 acres in disturbed surface area.

One of the primary causes of particulate pollution in the Phoenix area is wind-blown dust from construction and home development sites, road-building activities, unpaved parking lots and roads, disturbed vacant lands, and paved road dust.

Particulate matter, including dust, affects the respiratory system. Particle pollution is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets in the air. When breathed in, these particles can reach the deepest regions of the lungs and is linked to a variety of significant health problems—ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment in the nation’s cities and national parks.

Maricopa County exceeds the national health standard for particulate matter or dust. The EPA has classified the county as a serious non-attainment area for particulate matter. The Clean Air Act requires the state to submit a plan containing measures that will reduce airborne particulate matter 5 percent a year until the area meets the federal air quality standard.

$44,190 Fine for Failure to File Tier II Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals

Firestone Pacific Foods, Inc., a processor of quick frozen fruit based in Vancouver, Washington, has been issued an Administrative Complaint seeking a proposed penalty of $44,190 from the EPA. According to EPA officials, the complaint stems from the company’s alleged failure to provide required hazardous chemical inventory information to state and local emergency planning officials, as well as the local fire department, which are violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Documents associated with the case reveal that for calendar years 2001 through 2005, Firestone’s Vancouver facility located at 4211 NW Fruit Valley Road failed to file the inventory reports with the State Emergency Response Commission, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Vancouver Fire Department. The penalties pertain to the failure to report information about the ammonia that is used as a refrigerant on-site at the facility.

"Local fire fighters and emergency responders need all the information they can get to protect themselves and keep the public safe,” said Mike Bussell, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Seattle. "Proper planning and responsible information-sharing—as required by law—helps save lives and protect the environment.”

EPA Cites Six Landlords for Lead-Based Paint Violations

The EPA is proposing to assess civil penalties against five landlords in Colorado and one in Utah for violations of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The landlords are Kief-Riddell Partnership of Fullerton, Calif., which operates an apartment complex in Boulder, Colo.; Gerald A. Kelly Trust, which operates an apartment complex in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Mack Irrevocable Trust of Denver, which operates an apartment complex in Denver, Colo.; Waclaw and Janina Jarosz, who operate an apartment complex in Lakewood, Colo.; the Meryash Family Trust of Carmel Valley, Calif., which operates an apartment complex in Wheatridge, Colo.; and Cherry Hills Apartments Business Trust of Cottonwood Heights, Utah, which operates an apartment complex in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The landlords failed to comply with the law by not including the lead-warning statement as a part of their leases. That statement is to warn tenants, before they sign the lease, about the possible presence of lead-based paint and its health hazards. For example, the statement warns that lead exposure is particularly hazardous to young children and pregnant women. The landlords also failed to comply with the law by not providing, prior to entering into leases with its tenants, the “Protect Your Family” pamphlet, which explains the health hazards of lead. It should be noted that several of the cited businesses have changed their practices in an effort to comply with the law since being inspected by EPA.

“The Residential Lead Hazard Act has been in effect since 1996, but we continue to find significant noncompliance,” said EPA Deputy Assistant Regional Administrator Eddie Sierra. “We hope these actions will demonstrate that we take the requirements seriously and that we will seek penalties from those found not in compliance with the law.”

EPA regulations require that an owner of housing constructed before 1978 provide, prior to renting a property, an EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet, a lead warning statement, a statement disclosing the presence of any known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, a list of any records or reports available to the owner related to lead-based paint or hazards, a statement by the renter/lessees that they received all of this information, and signatures dated by both parties certifying the accuracy of their statements.

Illinois Solar Energy Association Offers “Solar 101” and “Wind 101” Workshops

The Illinois Solar Energy Association will be conducting Solar 101 and Wind 101 workshops in Chicago. Solar 101 and Wind 101 will provide comprehensive and generic information on how solar and wind energy can be used.

The workshops will be held on Saturday, October 20, at the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Solar 101 will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Wind 101 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The “101” workshops are designed for:

  • Home and business owners, and decision-makers for public and nonprofit facilities who are considering solar or wind energy systems for their buildings or land
  • Architects, engineers, realtors, developers, contractors, government officials, and other professionals who are seeking basic information about solar and wind energy systems

The workshop will cover a basic overview of how solar and wind energy systems work in Illinois, the types of systems that provide heating, hot water, cooling, and electricity; how to choose between different types of systems; and economics and regulatory issues.

The cost for Illinois Solar Energy Association Members is $49 each or two for $79, which includes handouts and refreshments. Non-members also become ISEA memberships at $30 for individuals, $20 for seniors and students, $40 for families, and $100 and up for businesses, which includes the basic ISEA membership ($55 for seniors or students).


EPA Launches New Wastewater Website for Small Communities

This new site provides information about grants, funding resources, technical assistance, and training. A variety of tools is also available on this website to help small communities plan, design, build, and maintain their wastewater infrastructure.

New Report Shows Increase in Fuel Efficiency for 2007

Reversing a long-term trend of slightly declining fuel economy, EPA is reporting an increase in fuel efficiency for 2006 and 2007, an average of 20.2 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and light duty trucks. For the first time, real-world fuel economy values are based on the new, more realistic EPA test methods that have taken effect for model year 2008 vehicles.

"America's drivers want the biggest bang for their fuel buck, so this report is great news for both our wallets and our environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Automakers are answering President Bush's call to improve fuel economy and decrease our nation's dependency on foreign oil."

 The report projects average real-world fuel economy for model year 2007 to be 20.2 mpg, the same as 2006.

This report confirms that average fuel economy improved in both 2005 and 2006, the first consecutive annual increases since the mid-1980s. The 20.2 mpg value for 2006 and 2007 is 0.9 mpg higher than in 2004, reversing a long-term trend of slightly declining fuel economy since its 1987 peak. Most of the increase in overall fuel economy since 2004 has been due to higher light truck fuel economy. Fuel economy standards have risen each year since 2005 for light trucks. Another reason is slightly lower light truck market share, which peaked in 2004 at 52 percent and is projected to be 49 percent in 2007.

For recent model years, the improved method yields industry-wide combined city/highway fuel economy estimates that are about 6 percent lower than past estimates. Accordingly, year-to-year comparisons only should be made between data listed in the report.

The Bush Administration is taking several actions to promote better fuel economy. First, the DOT has raised fuel economy standards for light trucks for every year from 2005 through 2011. Additionally, President Bush has issued an Executive Order directing EPA, DOT, and other federal agencies to initiate a Clean Air Act rulemaking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles, aimed at improved fuel economy as well.

EPA Approves New Jersey's Plan to Reduce Nitrogen Oxide Pollution

The EPA has approved New Jersey’s revised plan to reduce certain air pollutants in the Garden State. The plan enables the state to carry out the provisions of EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which will permanently cap emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the eastern United States.

“The Clean Air Interstate Rule is an important part of the Bush Administration’s plan to help states in the eastern United States meet national health-based air quality standards,” said Alan J. Steinberg, Regional Administrator. "EPA has carefully examined New Jersey’s plan to reduce air pollution and is satisfied that these changes are consistent with federal standards and will benefit the health of the state and its neighbors.”

New Jersey’s plan, known as a state implementation plan (SIP), is federally enforceable. It identifies how the state will achieve and maintain federal standards for principal pollutants identified by EPA. Developed through a public process and subject to public comments, each state is required to have a SIP that contains control measures and strategies to be formally adopted by the state and submitted to EPA for approval.

EPA allows the states some flexibility in meeting the requirements under CAIR. The agency is taking final action to approve a revision to New Jersey’s SIP, which was submitted on Feb. 6, 2007. The change affects the existing federal plans that put CAIR into operation in New Jersey. The SIP revision allows the state to use its own methodology, rather than the federal approach, for determining and distributing NOx allowances, which are authorizations that allow the production of a fixed amount of a pollutant. With the approval of New Jersey’s plan, the state will be allowed to use its own allocation methodology to calculate NOx emissions. The CAIR federal plans remain in place for all other NOx and SO2 provisions. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce SO2 emissions in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia by more than 70 percent and NOx emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels.

At the end of 2004, 13 New Jersey counties were designated as not attaining EPA's health-based standard for fine particles. CAIR will help bring all of these counties into attainment by 2010. Twenty-one New Jersey counties were also designated as not meeting EPA's health-based standard for smog. CAIR will significantly reduce the levels of smog in all of these counties. CAIR is one part of EPA’s comprehensive plan to reduce air pollution throughout the nation.

$83,926 Penalty for Failure to Report Lead on Form R Toxic Chemical Report

The EPA has fined a Southern California conveyor equipment manufacturer $83,926 for failure to submit required toxic chemical reports, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

SDI Industries, located at 13000 Pierce Street in Pacoima, Calif., failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amounts of lead processed at its facility from 2002–2005.

“Facilities that process toxic chemicals such as lead must follow our reporting rules so residents and emergency response personnel are aware of possible chemical hazards in the local environment,” said Nathan Lau, Communities and Ecosystems Division associate director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This penalty should remind others that we are maintaining a close watch over chemical reporting practices and are serious about enforcing community right-to-know laws.”

The settlement will consist of a $19,197 cash penalty and a $64,729 supplemental environmental project that includes the donation of hazardous material response equipment to the City of Burbank Fire Department. EPA inspectors discovered the violations as a result of a routine inspection in February 2004 and a follow-up investigation.

Federal community right-to-know laws require facilities processing, manufacturing, or otherwise using more than 100 pounds of lead to report releases of this highly toxic chemical on an annual basis to the EPA and the state. Although SDI exceeded these thresholds during 2002–2005, it failed to submit reports to the EPA for any of those years.

The facility uses lead in its manufacturing of conveyor equipment. Exposure to lead may result in high blood pressure, digestive problems, muscle and joint pain, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, increased chance of illness during pregnancy, and harm to a fetus, including brain damage or death. Exposure even to low levels of lead can severely harm children under the age of 6.

This database estimates the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled onsite, or transferred offsite for waste management, and also provides a trend analysis of toxic chemical releases.

Ranor Inc. Fined for Clean Water Act and Community Right-to-Know Violations

Ranor, Inc., and its owner Techprecision Corporation will pay more than $100,000 in penalties for environmental violations, in settlement of claims that their facility violated both the federal Clean Water Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA).

The facility, which produces metal products for the military, nuclear, aerospace, and commercial industries, violated Clean Water requirements by discharging storm water without a permit.

Because the permitting requirements were not followed, the facility also failed to implement “best management practices” to address storm water discharges and failed to perform required monitoring that would show the quantity of pollutants being discharged into U.S. waters.

The facility’s storm water discharges to a beaver pond and an unnamed perennial stream, which lead to other bodies of water. Activities that take place at industrial facilities, such as material handling and storage, are often exposed to the weather. As runoff from rain or snowmelt comes into contact with these materials, it picks up pollutants and transports them to nearby storm sewer systems, rivers, lakes, or coastal waters. Storm water pollution is a significant source of water quality problems for the nation’s waters.

The facility also failed to file with EPA required Toxic Release Inventory reporting forms for the years 2003 and 2004, as required by EPCRA, relating to the facility’s processing of nickel, chromium, and manganese. This failure to comply with chemical reporting requirements hampers the general public’s ability to obtain accurate, quantifiable data about the type and amount of pollutants being released in their neighborhoods.

The settlement includes a $90,635 penalty payment and an additional $15,000 for a supplemental environmental project to purchase chemical emergency response equipment that would be donated to the Westminster Fire Department.

“Protecting our environment is everybody's responsibility. It's important that people and businesses follow requirements designed to prevent pollution to our air, soil, and water," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England regional office. "TRI reporting gives the public important information about which chemicals are being released in and near their communities.”

EPA Fines Romic Environmental Technologies Corp. $97,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

The EPA recently reached a $97,000 settlement with Romic Environmental Technologies for violating federal waste handling and storage laws. Romic is located at 6760 West Allison Road on the Gila River Indian community near Chandler, Ariz. It is a hazardous waste storage and treatment facility. The company performs solvent recycling, blending, aerosol can processing, bulking, container crushing, and waste consolidation for off-site disposal.

“It is essential that companies comply with hazardous waste regulations in order to protect human health and prevent impacts to the environment," said Nancy Lindsay, director of the EPA's Waste Management Division for the Pacific Southwest region. "The EPA will continue to ensure that facilities who generate and manage hazardous waste do so in accordance with the law."

The EPA cited the Romic facility for improperly handling hazardous waste; failing to minimize a possible accidental release; failing to take all necessary measures to ensure fires, explosions, and releases did not occur; and failing to notify government officials of a release of hydrogen peroxide.

Under the settlement, Romic will pay a penalty of $20,427. The company has also agreed to clean up 10 open dumps on the Gila River Indian Reservation, costing the company a minimum of $77,000. The supplemental environmental project requires the company to pay for the gathering, loading, and hauling of solid waste from the various locations throughout the reservation. The EPA consulted with the Gila River Indian Community’s Department of Environmental Quality in helping select the open dumps to be cleaned up under the project.

The settlement resolves EPA’s April 24 complaint regarding a series of releases into the air at its facility on April 5 and the company’s subsequent failure to implement emergency contingency operations and failure to minimize the possibility of a release.

In August 2005, the EPA fined Romic $67,888 for multiple hazardous waste violations at its facility. The company corrected the violations and spent $100,800 on life-saving equipment for the Gila River Indian Community Fire Department and air monitoring and meteorological equipment for the Gila River Indian Community Department of Environmental Quality.

On August 16, the EPA proposed denying a Romic permit application to continue operating its hazardous waste facility. 

Senior Aerospace SSP to Pay $39,800 for EPCRA Violations

EPA recently fined a Burbank, Calif.-based aerospace components manufacturer $39,800 for its alleged failure to submit timely annual reports about its toxic chemical release of nitric acid, chromium, and lead in violation of a federal community right-to-know law.

“Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) reports provide communities with valuable information about the chemicals being released into their environment,” said Nathan Lau, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This information is critical to protecting public health and the environment.”

Senior Aerospace SSP, located at 2980 San Fernando Blvd., manufactures metallic and non-metallic systems and components used for military, commercial aircraft, and missile applications. The deadline to submit the annual reports for calendar year 2005 was July 1, 2006.

Congress enacted EPCRA in 1986 to help local communities protect public health, safety, and the environment from chemical hazards. The law requires companies using any of 650 listed toxic chemicals over certain thresholds to report their annual chemical releases to the EPA. The information is then compiled into a national database that is accessible to local emergency planning personnel and the general public.

Equipment Manufacturer to Pay $45,150 for Toxic Chemical Reporting Violations

The EPA has settled with a Modesto equipment manufacturer for $45,150 for allegedly failing to submit required toxic chemical reports, a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Lamar Tool & Die Casting, Inc., located at 4230 Technology Drive in Modesto, Calif., allegedly failed to submit timely, complete, and correct reports detailing the amounts of lead, copper, and manganese processed at its facility from 2002–2005.

“Facilities that process chemicals such as lead, copper, and manganese must report the use of the chemicals so residents and emergency response personnel know of possible chemical hazards in the community,” said Nathan Lau, Communities and Ecosystems Division associate director for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Companies must keep a close watch over chemical reporting practices, as we are serious about enforcing community right-to-know laws.”

Federal rules require facilities processing, manufacturing, or otherwise using more than 100 pounds of lead and more than 25,000 pounds of copper and manganese to report chemical releases on an annual basis to the EPA and the state. Although the company exceeded these thresholds during 2002–2005, it allegedly failed to submit reports to the EPA for any of those years.

Exposure to lead may result in high blood pressure, digestive problems, muscle and joint pain, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, increased chance of illness during pregnancy, and harm to a fetus, including brain damage or death. Exposure to low levels of lead can severely harm children under the age of 6.

Copper exposure can potentially cause nausea and vomiting and years of long-term exposure could cause liver or kidney damage. Years of long-term exposure to manganese can potentially cause nerve disorders.

Each year, the EPA compiles information submitted from the previous year regarding toxic chemical releases and produces a national Toxics Release Inventory database for public availability. This database estimates the amounts of each toxic chemical released to the environment, treated or recycled on-site, or transferred off-site for waste management, and also provides a trend analysis of toxic chemical releases.

$76,402 Fine for Illegal Importation of Ozone-Depleting Substances

The EPA has filed a complaint against a Guam-based refrigeration and heating equipment services company for allegedly importing banned refrigerants in violation of the Clean Air Act.

The EPA is seeking penalties up to $76,402 from JWS Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, Ltd., a Tamuning, Guam company, for the illegal importation of 25,402 kg of hydrochlorofluorocarbon 22, an ozone-depleting substance, from sources outside the United States.

“To protect stratospheric ozone, the Clean Air Act limits the importing of ozone-depleting chemicals into the United States,” said Deborah Jordan, director of the EPA’s Air Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “Companies in Guam and other U.S. territories are not excluded and must comply with all stratospheric ozone protection regulations.”

A May 2006 inspection by the Guam EPA, in consultation with the EPA, identified 25,402 violations of the stratospheric ozone protection regulations committed by JWS Refrigeration.

High in the atmosphere, the stratospheric ozone layer is the earth’s protective shield against excessive ultraviolet radiation. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation has been held responsible for increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts, depressed immune systems, decreased crop output, and the destruction of plankton, a critical link in the oceanic food chain.

Among other restrictions, the program forbids the importation of ozone-depleting substances.

New Tool Offers an Inside Look at the Climate Change Impact of Buildings

Estimating the carbon footprint of commercial buildings has just become easier. Portfolio Manager, EPA's online energy rating system for commercial buildings, now includes greenhouse gas emission factors. 

The emissions factors for carbon dioxide (CO2) are from EPA's Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) and are consistent with those used by major greenhouse gas reporting protocols. With the integration of eGRID into Portfolio Manager, businesses can see how the CO2 emissions of their buildings compare with others in their same region and across the country. This allows organizations to assess and address the climate change impact of their buildings according to standardized protocols, prioritize energy efficiency improvements, and lessen the impact on the environment.

For example, a look at a typical office building in the New England region shows that the building contributes 20 pounds of CO2 per square foot. An Energy Star office building in this region contributes just 15 pounds per square foot, a reduction of at least 25 percent. Americans can look for buildings that have earned the Energy Star with confidence, knowing that the building is energy efficient with a smaller carbon footprint.

The Energy Star strategy for superior energy management emphasizes the importance of corporate commitment and helps position companies to address risks from climate change and improve transparency. Companies that have partnered with EPA and use Energy Star tools are now being recognized for their leadership.

EPA started the Energy Star program in 1992 as a voluntary partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy efficiency. In 2006, American businesses and consumers with the help of Energy Star saved $14 billion on their energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions equal to those of 25 million vehicles annually.

EPA Settles With Target on Pesticide Violations

A $40,950 penalty has been assessed against the company as part of the settlement.

According to EPA, Target sold and distributed unregistered pesticides from its stores and on its website. The products are Antimicrobial Toilet Seats, three sizes of Home Ultimate Mattress Pads, Home Ultimate Pillows, and Cleaner With Bleach. The toilet seats, mattress pads, and pillows made "germ-killing" claims. The Cleaner With Bleach compared the product's properties to a similar, registered disinfectant bathroom cleaner sold by a competitor. An inspector found the violations in April. Target is removing the pesticidal claims from these products.

EPA registers all pesticides and pesticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Pesticides include disinfectants and antimicrobial and antibacterial products.

Hunt Refining Settles Federal Air Pollution Case for $49 Million

The Hunt Refining Co. and Hunt Southland Refining Co. have agreed to pay a $400,000 civil penalty and spend more than $48.5 million for new and upgraded pollution controls at three refineries, the Justice Department and the EPA announced. The settlement resolves alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and is expected to reduce more than 1,250 tons of harmful emissions annually from the company's refineries in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Sandersville and Lumberton, Miss.

"EPA is committed to enforcing the laws that protect the environment and public health," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Including today's settlement, refineries across the country have agreed to spend nearly $5 billion in new pollution control technologies and pay $70 million in penalties."

"This settlement continues the work of the Department of Justice to assure that all refineries in the United States are in compliance with the Clean Air Act," said Ronald J. Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement, which was done in coordination with the states of Alabama and Mississippi, requires new pollution controls, reduces air pollutants by a significant amount, secures a sizeable civil penalty, and obtains important environmental projects for the impacted communities."

The states of Alabama and Mississippi also have joined in the consent decree and will share portions of the civil penalty with EPA.The agreement requires new pollution controls to be installed that will reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxide by approximately 150 tons per year and sulfur dioxide by almost 1,100 tons per year when fully implemented. The new controls also will result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter from each of the refineries. VOCs and sulfur dioxide can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity. They also can cause damage to ecosystems and reduce visibility. The three refineries covered by the settlement have the capacity to produce nearly 70,000 barrels of oil per day.

In addition, Hunt will spend $475,000 on projects to benefit the community and environment. Hunt has agreed to upgrade controls to reduce VOC emissions from the wastewater systems at the Tuscaloosa refinery and will also buy emergency preparedness equipment and train mutual aid responders in Vicksburg, Miss., and Choctaw County, Ala.

In 1996, the EPA turned its focus toward improving compliance among petroleum refiners because of their potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution. At the time, the industry ranked at the top of the list as the biggest emitters of VOCs and sulfur dioxide emissions. In addition, petroleum refiners emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide. These pollutants contribute to respiratory illness and heart disease, childhood asthma, acid rain, and reduced visibility.

Earlier this year, similar settlements were reached with Valero Energy and Total Petrochemicals requiring approximately $270 million in new pollution controls at refineries in Texas, Tennessee, and Ohio.

EPA Takes Environmental Message to Hispanic Communities

Small changes in our lives can make a big difference in our environment if we all get involved. That’s a common theme among advocates for healthier, greener living, and the EPA is working to make sure it’s a message that can be understood in any language.

Beginning October 1, 150,000 free copies of a Spanish-language DVD created by EPA will be distributed at more than 400 select Wal-Mart stores across the nation. The DVD is entitled “Chucho Salva el Dia” and provides information to Spanish-speaking communities on how to assist in improving the quality of stormwater by minimizing pollution caused by daily household and work activities.

“We all have a stake in the quality of our water,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “Ensuring the sustainability of our nation’s waters is not just an EPA challenge—it is everyone’s challenge. We’re glad to see leading companies like Wal-Mart rising to the challenge and urging others to do the same.”

The DVDs are being distributed by Wal-Mart as part of their local Personal Sustainability Project Challenge, which coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month and encourages people to select an action they are willing to commit to improve their efforts towards sustainability.

The Chucho Salva el Dia DVD was developed by the EPA Region 6 office in Dallas as a tool to provide environmental awareness on stormwater pollution issues to Spanish-speaking communities. To date, EPA has distributed 3,000 copies to schools, environmental organizations, and government agencies. EPA is working toward nationwide distribution through partnerships with businesses like Wal-Mart and other groups.


California Air Resources Board Approves State Implementation Plan

The California Air Resources Board recently approved an ambitious, multifaceted plan to significantly improve air quality throughout the state, along with announcing new measures on two regional plans geared toward meeting federally mandated emissions standards and deadlines for the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

"The 2007 State Implementation Plan shows how California expects to attain clean air through a combination of innovative and cost-effective measures," said Mary Nichols, ARB Chair. "With this vital document in place, we have a roadmap to the future that will keep us on track to meet our air quality goals."

In addition to the state strategy, the ARB approved a plan submitted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to hasten emissions reductions through cooperative measures to be implemented by both ARB and the SCAQMD. This plan, which will reduce emissions of the smog precursor oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by more than 500 tons per day by 2014, now becomes part of the State SIP, which will be forwarded to the U.S. EPA for final approval. NOx reacts with sunlight to form ozone, a key ingredient of smog.

Also approved was an expedited strategy to improve ozone air quality in the San Joaquin Valley some 90 percent by 2018 in terms of the federal standard. For example, the strategy calls for ARB to clean up emissions from farm equipment and to partner with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to accelerate the timeline of the recently passed off-road construction rules by offering financial incentives to Valley businesses aimed at getting older, dirtier engines retrofitted or replaced.

Both the South Coast and San Joaquin plans focus on efforts to meet federal deadlines specifically for ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. Target dates for compliance are 2014 for PM2.5 and 2023 for ozone in areas designated by EPA as having "extreme" air pollution, such as the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin.

While the federal ozone attainment date for the San Joaquin Valley remains 2023, ARB's new proposal will fast-track efforts to obtain 90 percent compliance by 2018. The last 10 percent will require new technologies that are not readily available.

Because ARB scientists determined that reducing emissions of one pollutant, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), is the most beneficial in reducing levels of both ozone and PM2.5, the state plan focuses on curbing pollution from the sources that produce nearly 90 percent of the state's NOx. These sources include cars, heavy duty trucks, large off-road equipment, ships, and locomotives.

The state's cleanup strategy includes the following measures:

  • Clean-up of In-Use Heavy Duty Trucks. This critical regulation, to be presented to the board in mid-2008, will modernize diesel trucks and reduce emissions by requiring replacement or cleanup of the dirtiest trucks on the road, and will also include a program for out-of-state trucks doing business in California.
  • Targeting Goods Movement Sources. A myriad of measures take aim at reducing emissions from ships, trucks, harbor craft, and other sources. In October, ARB will consider requiring owners of commercial harbor craft to either replace old engines with newer, cleaner versions or add control technologies to clean up exhaust. In December, ARB will consider a regulation to provide alternative power supplies at ports so that ship auxiliary engines can avoid using diesel power while at dock. Also on the December agenda is a measure requiring the retrofit or replacement of older heavy-duty diesel trucks that service ports.
  • Targeting Off-Road Sources. In July, the board approved the measure to regulate construction and other industrial equipment, establishing fleet average emission limits and requiring older, dirtier engines to be replaced by current models or retrofitted with emission control devices. Agricultural equipment will also be modernized and cleaned up, with the board expected to consider regulation in 2009.

"California industry has already reduced NOx emissions at a faster pace than anywhere in the world over the last 40 years by introducing cleaner technologies," Nichols said. "Following this strategy will mean progress at an unprecedented rate. It's what we need to do to protect public health."

The approved SIP includes both rules that have been adopted already and rules that are proposed and scheduled for public input.

Both ozone and fine PM can have significant health impacts. Ozone contributes to respiratory ailments and asthma, and it can cause premature death in elderly patients with lung disease. It is a product of a photochemical process involving the sun's energy and ozone precursors, such as hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Exposure to fine PM exacerbates respiratory and cardiovascular ailments and is responsible for approximately 8,200 premature deaths per year in the state.

MPCA Seeking Applications for Environmental Grants, $350,000 Dollars Available

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking preliminary applications for grants to be used in the development of environmentally sustainable practices that prevent pollution and conserve resources. Both public and private organizations and partnerships are eligible. Preliminary applications are due Oct. 29, 2007.

Approximately $350,000 is available in funding. Applications must fall under one of the following four focus areas:

  • Preventing waste and pollution at the source
  • Creating more sustainable communities
  • Developing and expanding markets for underutilized materials
  • High impact integrated environmental improvements

"Minnesotans recognize the value of our natural resources and want them preserved for future generations," said MPCA Commissioner Brad Moore. "Past experience shows that a small amount of seed money goes a long way in creating innovative approaches to conserve and protect the environment."

To facilitate these efforts and to help organizations move toward more sustainable practices, the MPCA Environmental Assistance Grant Program offers grants on a yearly basis. Since 1985, more than $11 million in grants have been awarded to organizations across Minnesota.


Hazardous Waste Violations Cost Perham Company $10,000

D & D Fiberglass Bodies Inc., a manufacturer of truck parts in Perham, Minn., agreed to pay $10,000 for alleged hazardous waste violations. The violations were discovered by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) last year.

The violations include storing hazardous waste in unsafe areas and storing more waste than is allowed by state law for a company of its size. The company also failed to obtain required hazardous waste generator and storage permits from the MPCA. In addition to paying the $10,000 civil penalty, the company has taken steps to properly store and dispose of the waste they generate and has applied for the required permits.

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

DEC Fines Archmont Inc. for Stormwater and Water Quality Violations

Archmont Inc. has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and an additional $35,000 to fund a local environmental benefit project in the town of Colonie, to settle water quality and stormwater violations at a construction site, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 4 Director Gene Kelly announced today.

On several occasions during the first seven months of this year, Archmont Inc., a Rensselaer construction company, was responsible for causing turbidity in the Dry River, a tributary of the Hudson River, at a subdivision building site in Colonie. Causing turbidity in a stream is a water quality violation under the Clean Water Act. Additionally, Archmont violated its stormwater pollution prevention plan by not adequately controlling erosion and sedimentation at their construction site.

"The quality of our region's water bodies depends upon the strict adherence to stormwater regulations," Kelly said. "We want to send a clear message to the construction community that stormwater regulations will be strictly enforced by both the department and by the regulated municipalities. We would like to commend the town of Colonie for their efforts in developing and implementing their stormwater program."
Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations and DEC policy, DEC can require a respondent to fund so-called environmental benefit projects (EBP) as part of a civil settlement—either at an offending facility or in the surrounding area—that partially compensates for the environmental insult associated with an alleged violation. In this case, the funds will be deposited into an escrow account to be used for an EBP project within Colonie at a location to be determined.

Guidelines Approved to Reduce Bird Deaths at California Wind Farms

 The guidelines are meant to protect wildlife as the state moves to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

"These voluntary guidelines are designed to help local and regional officials who issue permits for wind-energy projects," said Energy Commission