For reducing more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of about 150,000 cars – EPA recognized six exemplary Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Projects. The projects meet high performance levels for energy generation efficiency and make outstanding contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by recycling the waste heat produced in electricity generation or manufacturing processes and reusing it for building cooling, heating, power and other purposes. Finding better ways to use energy results in improved economic performance and reduced emissions for these plants and their communities.
Winners of ENERGY STAR CHP Awards include BP Solvay Polyethylene North America for the BP Solvay Deer Park CHP Project, and Calpine Corporation for the Deer Park Energy Center CHP Project - Phase 1. Both award-winning CHP projects are located in Texas City, Texas. Organizations receiving Certificates of Recognition for their CHP projects are: Austin Energy for the Domain CHP Project (Austin, Texas); BP Global Power and Cinergy Solutions, Inc. for the South Houston Green Power 2 CHP Project (Houston, Texas); and Harrah's Entertainment Inc. for the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino CHP Project (Las Vegas, Nevada).
The awards and Certificates of Recognition were presented on Thursday, May 13 in Washington, DC in conjunction with EPA's Combined Heat and Power Partnership 2nd Annual Partners Meeting. For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/chp.
United States and Mexico Explore Regional Approaches to Improve Border Air Quality
The United States and Mexico are launching three projects to explore strategies for jointly combating air pollution in regions along the border. EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead and Mexico's Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) Undersecretary for Environmental Protection and Management Francisco Giner De Los Rios recently announced the projects, which are part of the U.S.-Mexico Border Air Quality Strategy (BAQS). The international pilot projects will lead to a greater understanding of the impacts of air pollution and seek joint solutions to air pollution that affects both sides of the border.
The projects will: evaluate the feasibility of establishing an emissions trading program, or economic incentives program for the El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juárez region; investigate the practicality of managing the Paso del Norte (El Paso, Texas-Ciudad Juárez, Chihuaha-DoZa Ana County, N.M. area) as one airshed; and explore how best to achieve low-cost emission reductions in the Imperial Valley, California-Mexicali, Baja California area.
The BAQS was launched in November 2002 to encourage air quality improvement to protect health and promote economic growth along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Campaign Launched to Eliminate 12 Hazardous Chemicals
The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) enters into force on Monday, May 17, marking the start of an ambitious international effort to rid the world of PCBs, dioxins and furans, and nine highly dangerous pesticides.
“The Stockholm Convention will save lives and protect the natural environment – particularly in the poorest communities and countries – by banning the production and use of some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind,” said Executive Klaus Toepfer of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), under whose auspices the Convention was adopted.
“Over the next several years national investments plus donor pledges of hundreds of millions will channel more than five hundred million dollars into an overdue and urgently needed initiative to ensure that future generations do not have to live as we do with measurable quantities of these toxic chemicals stored in their bodies,” he said.
Much of this funding will be managed by the Global Environment Facility, which serves as the financial mechanism for the Convention on an interim basis.
Of all the pollutants released into the environment every year by human activity, POPs are amongst the most dangerous. For decades these highly toxic chemicals have killed and sickened people and animals by causing cancer and damaging the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. They have also caused uncounted birth defects.
Governments will seek a rapid start to action against POPs when they meet for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP 1) in Punta del Este, Uruguay in the first week of May, 2005. They will fast-track efforts to:
- reduce or eliminate the carcinogenic chemicals known as dioxins and furans, which are produced unintentionally as by-products of combustion. Many of the required improvements in technologies and processes may prove expensive and technically challenging, particularly for developing countries.
- assist countries in malarial regions to replace DDT with the increasingly safe and effective alternatives. Until such alternatives are in place, the Convention allows governments to continue using DDT to protect their citizens from malaria – a major killer in many tropical regions.
- support efforts by each national government to develop an implementation plan. Already, over 120 developing countries have started to elaborate such plans with funds from the Global Environment Facility. The COP will also focus on channelling new funds into POPs projects.
- measure and evaluate changes in the levels of POPs in the natural environment and in humans and animals in order to confirm whether the Convention is indeed reducing releases of POPs to the environment.
- establish a POPs review committee for evaluating additional chemicals and pesticides to be added to the initial list of 12 POPs.
- finalize guidelines for promoting “best environmental practices” and “best available techniques” that can reduce and eliminate releases of dioxins and furans.
In addition to banning the use of POPs, the treaty focuses on cleaning up the growing accumulation of unwanted and obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals that contain POPs. Dump sites and toxic drums from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s are now decaying and leaching chemicals into the soil and poisoning water resources, wildlife and people. The Convention also requires the disposal of PCBs and PCB-containing wastes.
Every human in the world carries traces of POPs in his or her body. POPs are highly stable compounds that can last for years or decades before breaking down. They circulate globally through a process known as the "grasshopper effect." POPs released in one part of the world can, through a repeated process of evaporation and deposit, be transported through the atmosphere to regions far away from the original source.
Winning Designs Reduce Environmental Impacts of Computers
The selected winners of the Cradle to Cradle Electronics Design Challenge are being recognized for their creative electronic designs that contain fewer toxic components, require fewer materials to make, and generate less waste at the end of the consumer electronics product's useful life. The winners were presented with awards at the 2004 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Symposium for Electronics and the Environment in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The National Recycling Coalition predicts that 500 million computers will become obsolete by 2007.
The first place winning design, called "LINC," was submitted by a University of Cincinnati student, Brett Christie. It features a compact, solar powered hand-held unit that replaces multiple electronic devices such as WiFi Internet, GPS Navigation, Movie Player, Music Player and E-Book. Customers return the LINC unit to the manufacturer, where its components are recycled to create new LINC units.
The second place design, called "Ecoprojection," was submitted by a team of students, Junko Hosokawa, Stuart Ottenritter, John Gualtieri and Michael Dickson, from Virginia Tech at Blacksburg. "Ecoprojection" replaces the cathode ray tubes and plasma screen technologies in personal computers (PCs) by using a full color laser to project images onto a variety of surfaces. This uniquely designed PC also includes a modular CPU (central processing unit) with components that can be taken out while the machine is running. The components can be sent back to the manufacturer when upgrades are desired. This design showcases novel materials such as: a releasable adhesive for printed circuit boards, and plastics and metals that return to their standard shape with minimal reprocessing, thereby expediting reuse of the material.
The third place design, called "bioPC," was submitted by a team of students, Summer Hill, Pooja Goyal, Joe Bradley and Ben Shao, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "bioPC" proposes the use of a type of bacteria, Bacteriorhodsin (BR) for information storage; the personal computer is made from biodegradable plastic materials, which are designed to be returned to a municipal composting facility at the end of the personal computer's useful life.
The IEEE Symposium (http://www.ieee.org) is the leading forum worldwide for electronics industry leaders to explore the latest environmental aspects of design, manufacturing, research, development, recycling and marketing of electronics products.
The first and second place winners received $5,000 each, donated by Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The third place winner received $4,000, donated by Lexmark Corporation and the Consumer Electronics Association.
More information on the Cradle to Cradle Electronics Design Challenge is available at http://www.greenblue.org/edesign. More information on the Resource Conservation Challenge is available at http://www.epa.gov/rcc
New Guidance Issued for Managing Used Consumer Electronic Equipment
EPA released new, voluntary guidance to its Plug-In To eCycling partners, who will test its provisions to determine the most effective and practical methods for safely managing used electronic equipment. The Plug-In To eCycling partnership, formed in 2002, aims to increase the safe recycling of used electronic products by providing recognition and other incentives to partners.
The new guidance, "Plug-In To eCycling Guidelines for Materials Management,"spells out preferred waste management practices for used electronic products, and defines partner eligibility. Plug-In partners are manufacturers, retailers, government agencies, or nonprofit businesses that help in the collection, reuse, recycling, or refurbishing of old electronic equipment. These guidelines further encourage anyone who handles used electronic equipment to: (1) maximize reuse, refurbishment, and recycling rather than the option for disposal and incineration; (2) ensure that exported electronic products will be legitimately reused, recycled, or refurbished by receiving countries, and provide for special handling of export components which may contain potentially harmful substances and (3) make sure that facilities follow best management practices that are consistent with these guidelines.
In addition to ensuring environmentally safe recycling of old electronics, this guidance aims to promote and maintain adequate markets for the reuse and recycling of electronic equipment. For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/plugin/index.htm.
Corrective Action Smart Enforcement Strategy is Announced
EPA is launching an enforcement strategy to better control human exposure at or near hazardous waste facilities. The Corrective Action Smart Enforcement Strategy (CASES) is an effort to get hazardous waste facilities to address contamination that is potentially harmful to human health. EPA's goal is to have human exposures controlled by 2005 at 95 percent of facilities that were identified in 1999 as high priorities for cleanup under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Under Subtitle C, RCRA requires parties who seek a permit to treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste to clean up environmental contaminants at their facilities regardless of the time of the release. The cleanup at treatment, storage or disposal facilities is termed "RCRA Corrective Action." Corrective action at these types of facilities may be accomplished through the permitting and enforcement mechanisms found in the RCRA law, through state programs, or through voluntary agreements.
For more information about Corrective Action enforcement, see the compliance website at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/cleanup/rcra/index.html.
U.S. Announces Major Clean Water Act Settlement with Wal-Mart
The Department of Justice and EPA, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware and the states of Utah and Tennessee, announced a Clean Water Act settlement for storm water violations at Wal-Mart store construction sites across the country. Under the terms of the agreement, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay a $3.1 million civil penalty and reduce storm water runoff at its sites by instituting better control measures, thereby setting an industry standard for developers and contractors.
In addition to being the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart is one of the largest commercial developers in the country, building more than 200 stores each year across the United States under the brand names Wal-Mart Stores, Wal-Mart Supercenters, and Sam's Clubs.
The complaint filed against Wal-Mart cited violations at 24 sites in nine states and included allegations of failure to obtain a permit before starting construction, failure to develop a plan to control polluted runoff from the construction site, failure to adequately install sediment and erosion controls on the sites and failure to self-inspect sites and prevent discharges of sediments to sensitive ecosystems. Reducing sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can be achieved with relatively simple measures, but requires both developers and contractors to be vigilant about compliance throughout the construction process.
This settlement requires Wal-Mart to comply with storm water permitting requirements and ensures rigorous oversight of its 150 contractors at its construction sites across the country through an aggressive compliance program. Wal-Mart will be required to use qualified personnel to oversee construction, conduct training and frequent inspections, report to EPA and take quick corrective actions.
In addition to paying a $3.1 million civil penalty to the United States, Tennessee and Utah, Wal-Mart has agreed to spend $250,000 on an environmental project that will help protect sensitive wetlands or waterways in one of the affected states, which are California, Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
This settlement is the second enforcement action resulting in a settlement with Wal-Mart for violations of the Clean Water Act. In 2001, Wal-Mart and several contractors entered into a settlement with the United States to address storm water violations at 17 sites in several states. That settlement included a civil penalty of $1 million and required Wal-Mart to develop a storm water training program for its contractors and to inspect and oversee storm water controls at construction sites. EPA subsequently determined through inspections that Wal-Mart had not achieved consistent compliance at construction sites.
The settlement was lodged for a 30-day public comment period in the U.S. District Court for Delaware. It is available online at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/walmart2.html.