Solar Cells That Work at Night

February 03, 2020
What if solar cells worked at night? That’s no joke, according to Jeremy Munday, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis. In fact, a specially designed photovoltaic cell could generate up to 50 watts of power per square meter under ideal conditions at night, about a quarter of what a conventional solar panel can generate in daytime, according to a concept paper by Munday and graduate student Tristan Deppe. The article was published in, and featured on the cover of, the January 2020 issue of ACS Photonics.
Munday, who recently joined UC Davis from the University of Maryland, is developing prototypes of these nighttime solar cells that can generate small amounts of power. The researchers hope to improve the power output and efficiency of the devices.
Munday said that the process is similar to the way a normal solar cell works, but in reverse. An object that is hot compared to its surroundings will radiate heat as infrared light. A conventional solar cell is cool compared to the sun, so it absorbs light.
Space is really, really cold, so if you have a warm object and point it at the sky, it will radiate heat toward it. People have been using this phenomenon for nighttime cooling for hundreds of years. In the last five years, Munday said, there has been a lot of interest in devices that can do this during the daytime (by filtering out sunlight or pointing away from the sun).
There’s another kind of device called a thermoradiative cell that generates power by radiating heat to its surroundings. Researchers have explored using them to capture waste heat from engines.
“We were thinking, what if we took one of these devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky,” Munday said. This thermoradiative cell pointed at the night sky would emit infrared light because it is warmer than outer space.
“A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow. In these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power,” Munday said. “You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”
The device would work during the day as well, if you took steps to either block direct sunlight or pointed it away from the sun. Because this new type of solar cell could potentially operate around the clock, it is an intriguing option to balance the power grid over the day-night cycle.
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What Happens to Artificial Turf Manufactured from Recycled Tires?
Artificial turf fields have been marketed as an environmentally responsible alternative to grass fields, providing a solution for a nasty solid waste problem by reusing old tires that are later recycled after removal. But this greenwashing is all a hoax, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Since there are no U.S. facilities for recycling, the plastic carpets and rubber crumb infill are often dumped or sent back to landfills in a form that is even more environmentally problematic.
There are currently an estimated 13,000 artificial turf fields in the U.S., a number that is growing by more than 1,000 each year. A synthetic field usually covers about 80,000 square feet and contains roughly 400,000 pounds of infill, consisting of shredded tires or other material, and 40,000 pounds of carpet. An artificial turf field will last eight-to-10 years, with most warranties running for only eight years. At that point, the turf is ripped out at which point new difficulties arise.
An 80,000 square-ft. sports field fills between fifteen and twenty 30-yard dumpsters. That volume would cost roughly $30,000 to $60,000 to landfill. To avoid that cost, vendors routinely advise municipalities that there are recycling facilities in the U.S.; specifically, they point to a company called Re-Match with a facility in Pennsylvania. One typical pitch claims –
“By partnering with Re-Match Turf Recycling, we will take the necessary steps to ensure that the synthetic carpet is recycled and does not end up in a landfill.”
Despite these claims, the Re-Match facility does not exist. An email from the CEO of Re-Match says, “there is no synthetic turf recycling plant in America yet.” Even the Synthetic Turf Council admits “Unfortunately, converting synthetic turf to a recyclable material that is useable cannot be done at the point of removal. Material must be shipped to different processing locations.” However, those unspecified recycling locations have yet to be identified.
“In reality, rather than being recycled, these old turf fields and their rubber crumb infill are dumped in abandoned lots, alleys, and even wetlands,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noting EPA previously championed crumb rubber fields as a solid waste solution, turning waste into a product. “Crumb rubber fields do not solve a solid waste disposal problem; they merely delay and compound it.”
In addition to the shredded tire infill, the plastic carpets are another waste disposal challenge. PEER has documented that they contain toxic per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “Forever Chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.
“Both current and retired synthetic turf fields are sources of contamination, leaching zinc, PFAS and micro-plastics into nearby waters,” added Bennett, noting that some vendors even tantalize potential customers with hopes of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for these toxic fields. “When the true costs are considered, artificial turf makes fields of delusions, not dreams.”
Montana to Amend Draft Rules to Regulate the Disposal of Technologically-Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) Waste
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality proposed significant amendments to draft rules intended to regulate the disposal of TENORM waste. The proposed amendments are in response to comments received on the Notice of Public Hearing on Proposed Adoption, which was published by the Secretary of State on Aug. 23, 2019. The supplemental notice published for public review details several significant changes to the proposed rules and provides an additional 30-day public comment period.
The proposed amendments include the following:
  • Lower the radionuclide concentration limit from 200 to 50 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) for the acceptance of TENORM waste at a TENORM waste management system.
  • Lower the gate screening exposure level from 200 to 100 microroentgen per hour (µR/hr), excluding background, for all incoming loads at a TENORM waste management system.
  • Require a TENORM waste management system to immediately stop accepting TENORM waste and notify DEQ within 24 hours if the total effective dose equivalent limit of 100 millirem/year is exceeded at the boundary.
The supplemental notice provides a complete explanation of the reasons behind the proposed amendments. It may be reviewed on DEQ’s website at:
DEQ believes these are significant changes to the original proposal notice and is therefore re-opening the public comment period on the proposed rules for 30 days with respect only to the changes set forth in the supplemental notice.
Public comments must be received by no later than 5 p.m. on March 2, 2020, to be guaranteed consideration. Comments may be submitted to:; mailed to Sandy Scherer, MT DEQ, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620; or faxed to 406-444-4386.
DEQ is continuing to review the comments and information submitted in response to its original notice, and anticipates other minor changes to the proposed rules at the time of adoption.  Timely comments previously submitted on the original notice, as well as comments received in response to the supplemental notice, will be addressed in the adoption notice for the proposed rules that will be published this spring.
Frontier Ag Inc. Cited for RMP Violations
EPA reached a settlement with Frontier Ag Inc. to resolve alleged violations of federal Clean Air Act regulations. The settlement includes three ammonia fertilizer facilities owned by the company in Kansas, two in Bird City and one in Menlo.
At the time of EPA inspections in June and October 2018, each facility contained over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, making them subject to Risk Management Program regulations intended to protect communities from accidental releases of hazardous substances. Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure may result in injury or death.
During the inspections, EPA determined that Frontier Ag Inc. failed to submit, implement and update risk management plans for the release of anhydrous ammonia; failed to ensure that the facilities’ processes for handling anhydrous ammonia were designed in compliance with good engineering practices; failed to perform required tests and inspect processing equipment at the facilities; and failed to update required documentation.
In response to the inspection findings, Frontier Ag Inc. took the necessary steps to return all three facilities to compliance. Under the terms of the settlement, Frontier Ag Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $71,652. In addition to achieving regulatory compliance, the company also agreed to complete a project designed to enhance safety at six of its ammonia fertilizer facilities by installing emergency shutoff valves and emergency stop buttons. Frontier Ag Inc. estimates the project will cost at least $55,000.
EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur per year among the universe of regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities.
Reducing risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA. EPA identified this goal as one of seven National Compliance Initiatives in 2019.
Maryland Joins Other States in Fight to Prevent Rollback of RMP Regulations
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia in filing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for gutting safeguards to prevent and limit harms from dangerous chemical accidents. Specifically, the coalition is challenging the EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its “Risk Management Program” (RMP) regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made critical improvements to the RMP to better prevent explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.
“When a business has toxic chemicals onsite, neighbors and emergency responders - police, fire and rescue - ought to know what they are up against. Keeping this information secret endangers lives,” said Attorney General Frosh.
In December 2019, the EPA finalized a rule that eliminates critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule, removing accident prevention programs designed to protect communities, workers, and first responders. These changes included the elimination of independent audits and “root cause” analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent future accidents. The final rule also cuts back on training requirements for employees, managers, and first responders and eliminates requirements that facilities share information concerning the hazardous chemicals used onsite with first responders and nearby communities.
In August 2018, a coalition of 12 attorneys general submitted extensive comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule, arguing that the proposal, if adopted, would be “arbitrary and capricious” and “inconsistent with the Clean Air Act.” The coalition urged EPA  to heed the warning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the Agency’s single-minded focus on industry costs of complying with the Rule made a “mockery” out of the Clean Air Act.
Accidents at toxic chemical plants pose a serious public danger. In fact, since EPA proposed rolling back the RMP program, accidents at chemical facilities have occurred across the country, causing deaths, injuries, and evacuations. For example, in November 2019, massive explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas released toxic plumes of butadiene and other carcinogens into the air, injured at least eight people, and required the evacuation of over 60,000 residents from the surrounding communities. According to the EPA, in the last 10 years, there have been over 1,500 accidents at chemical plants, including 15 in Maryland. Nationally, these accidents caused 58 deaths and 17,099 injuries, over $2 billion in property damage, and the emergency evacuation or forced shelter-in-place of almost 500,000 individuals. High-profile incidents included those at a BP Refinery in Texas in 2005 (15 people killed, 170 injured), a Chevron Refinery in California in 2012 (19 workers endangered, 15,000 people sought medical treatment), a Tesoro Refinery in Washington in 2010 (seven people killed), a West Fertilizer Facility in Texas in 2013 (15 people killed), and a Williams Olefins Plant in Louisiana in 2013 (two workers killed, many more injured).
The coalition’s petition for review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In addition to Maryland, the suit was joined by the attorneys general of Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the City of Philadelphia.
11 Arrested in $2 Million Recycling Fraud Scheme
Following a four-month investigation, California has successfully disrupted a multi-million dollar recycling fraud operation that stretched from Nevada and Arizona to Los Angeles County. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) joined the California Department of Justice to announce the arrest of a Pacoima, Calif., recycling center operator and 10 additional suspects on charges of felony recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft.
CalRecycle’s law enforcement partners within the California Department of Justice uncovered evidence of a large-scale recycling fraud ring during a four-month investigation. Agents learned empty beverage containers from Nevada and Arizona were being illegally transported to Los Angeles-area self-storage facilities before being fraudulently redeemed at 15 local recycling centers, including Yulissa Recycling in Pacoima.
From January 13 through January 17, agents executed search warrants and seized 17,669 pounds of aluminum, 7,554 pounds of plastic, and 2,430 pounds of glass empty beverage containers with a potential redemption value of $38,899. Based on evidence and interviews, the scheme is estimated to have defrauded the California Redemption Value fund out of more than $2 million.
The 11 defendants arrested and charged with felony recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft are Yajaira Rojas (39), Isaiah Rojas (20), Raul Fernandez (48), Catalina Hernandez (40), Enrique Morado-Amador (57), Jaime Bojado Perez (63), Jose Orozco-Lopez (48), Selvin Rodriguez (44), Amnel Ruano (31), Arturo Reyes (47), and Carlos Grimaldi (60). Upon conviction, the charges carry a potential sentence of six months to three years behind bars in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and possible loss of driver’s license and/or vehicle.
Volkswagen Fined Almost $200 Million for Defeat Devices in Canada
In the Ontario Court of Justice, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (Volkswagen AG), was ordered to pay an unprecedented $196.5 million fine after pleading guilty to 60 charges for offences under federal environmental legislation. Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to 58 counts of contravening section 154 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 by unlawfully importing into Canada vehicles that do not conform to prescribed vehicle emissions standards, which is an offence under paragraph 272(1)(a) of the Act. The company also pleaded guilty to two counts of providing misleading information, an offence under paragraph 272(1)(k) of the Act. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.
In September 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada launched an investigation regarding the importation into Canada of certain vehicle models that were allegedly equipped with a prohibited “defeat device”. The defeat device consists of software that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system during normal vehicle operation and use.
The investigation, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Enforcement Branch, involved a thorough and meticulous gathering of evidence and information relevant to a suspected violation of the federal On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations under which defeat devices are regulated. The investigation revealed that between January 2008 and December 2015, the company imported into Canada nearly 128,000 two- and three-litre diesel engine Volkswagen and Audi vehicles equipped with defeat devices. It also revealed that the use of software to reduce the effectiveness of the emission control systems involved significant deception and showed that the company knowingly circumvented national vehicle emissions regulations.
As a result of the conviction, Volkswagen AG will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The registry contains information on convictions of corporations for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Kohler to Pay $20 Million Penalty for Using Emissions Defeat Devices
The Department of Justice, EPA and the state of California announced a settlement with Kohler Co. resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and California law. Under the terms of the settlement, Kohler will retire unlawfully generated hydrocarbon (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emission credits. Retirement of these credits will result in approximately 3,600 tons of HC and NOx emissions reductions. In addition, the company will pay a $20 million civil penalty.
The violations pertain to Kohler’s manufacture and sale of millions of small, nonroad, non-handheld spark-ignition (small SI) engines that did not conform to the certification applications Kohler was required to submit to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). More than 144,000 of the engines were also equipped with a fueling strategy designed to cheat emissions testing standards (commonly referred to as a “defeat device”). Small SI engines are used in lawn mowers, ride-on mowers, commercial landscaping equipment, and generators.
“Today’s settlement holds Kohler accountable for flouting federal law, and evens the playing field for others in the regulated community who invest in compliance programs designed to prevent illegal and harmful emissions to the air,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is the result of the Justice Department’s and the EPA’s aggressive investigation of actors who thwart the emissions testing regime, and recognizes that Kohler self-reported some violations and cooperated with the government’s investigation.”
“We applaud the significant results of the work done by the partnership of the DOJ, EPA and CARB in this case,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson of the Northern District of California. “With this successful state and federal cooperation, we can now breathe a sigh of relief that our air quality is being protected. Once again, the results have proved that we all are safer, and we are all better off, when we work together.”
“Today’s settlement will reduce air pollutants by 3,600 tons and require Kohler to implement procedures to help ensure future compliance with environmental regulations,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “The settlement also sends a clear message that EPA will investigate and hold responsible those who seek to illegally circumvent engine emission requirements.”
“One of EPA’s top priorities is preventing vehicle and engine manufacturers from selling products that circumvent emissions requirements,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “Today’s precedent setting settlement sends an unequivocal message to all types of engine manufacturers—from manufacturers of heavy-duty highway engines to manufacturers of small nonroad engines like those at issue in this settlement—that EPA will vigorously investigate and bring companies into compliance to reduce pollution and protect public health.”
“Kohler voluntarily disclosed some of the violations, mitigated the emissions, and agreed to new procedures to ensure future compliance,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “In addition, Kohler will be funding an innovative program to supply free ultra-clean solar-powered generators to low-income Californians who live in areas that are subject to more frequent utility power outages. The solar-powered generators are capable of running refrigerators or lights, helping ease the impacts of power outages to those affected.”
In December 2015, Kohler self-disclosed to EPA and the CARB that it had been using the wrong test cycle to test many of its small SI engines. EPA and CARB’s subsequent investigation revealed that millions of additional small SI engines were noncompliant.
  • Examples of additional noncompliance that was discovered include:
  • Not fully complying with the test procedures Kohler certified to;
  • Failing to comply with the applicable emission limits;
  • Failing to age emission-related components for deterioration factor testing;Failing to disclose auxiliary emission control devices and adjustable parameters equipped on the engines;
  • Making changes to production engines without amending the certification application covering those engines; and
  • Failing to comply with the applicable production line testing requirements.
The defeat device Kohler developed and deployed on at least 144,000 electronic fuel-injected small SI engines significantly reduced NOx emissions during certification testing when compared to real-world operation (i.e., ran rich during certification testing but lean during in-use operation). The fueling strategy in the calibration was not disclosed in Kohler’s certification applications and Kohler was aware that the fueling strategy was designed to reduce NOx emissions during certification testing even though the certification results were not representative of real-world operation.
In addition to paying a $20 million civil penalty and retiring HC and NOx emission credits, Kohler has already taken the following steps to prevent future violations. The company has established an independent environmental regulatory compliance team, conducts annual compliance training for engine division employees, and maintains an employee code of conduct and an ethics helpline for employees to report noncompliance. Kohler will convene semiannual meetings with all engine division managers and regulatory personnel to discuss compliance with applicable regulatory requirements and the settlement. Kohler must also conduct annual audits and implement an emissions testing validation plan that includes third-party observation and emissions verification testing. Kohler estimates the compliance measures will cost approximately $3.7 million.
In a separate settlement agreement resolving California-only claims, Kohler will pay an additional $200,000 civil penalty and will fund a program that will supply $1.8 million worth of solar-battery generators to low-income residents in California that live in areas subject to public safety power shutoffs to mitigate wildfire risk.
The proposed settlements, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, are subject to final court approval. The settlement among the United States, California and Kohler is also subject to a 30-day public comment period.
Louisiana Business Owner Pleaded Guilty to Oil Spill Violations
In March 2018, BPR Energy, Inc., and its president, Bernard P. Robichaux, 48, were indicted for violations of Louisiana’s Pollutant Discharge Elimination System related to an oil spill from a tank at Petro-Hurst Oil in Iberville Parish, an oil production facility operated by BPR Energy, Inc.
BPR Energy, Inc., pleaded guilty to a felony count for the knowing violation of provisions of Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, specifically for failing to notify LDEQ and other appropriate agencies of the discharge. BPR Energy, Inc. was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.
Robichaux pleaded guilty to a negligent violation of provisions of Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, specifically for discharging a pollutant into the waters of the state without a permit. He was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and sentenced to two years of probation. In addition, he was ordered to pay $5,000 to LDEQ and $5,000 to the Louisiana State Police as reimbursement of costs for each agency’s role in the investigation. The Louisiana Environmental Crimes Task Force comprising agents from the U.S. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, LDEQ’s Criminal Investigation Section, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Iberville Sheriff’s Department and the Iberville Fire Department.
A subsequent cleanup was undertaken by a remediation contractor.
“Any person or business discharging a pollutant, whether intentionally or accidentally, has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to inform LDEQ and appropriate authorities as soon as possible,” LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown said. “Those who fail to do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as the blatant pollution of our state’s air, soil and water will not be tolerated.”
Judge Ordered $200,000 Penalty for Oil Releases
The owner of two northeast Ohio businesses that illegally burned and mishandled oil field waste has been ordered to pay a $200,000 civil penalty for polluting the environment.
“Clean land, clean water, clean air – these are things we share, and they’re protected by law,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “Here’s a message for every dirty environmental player: We mean what the law says, and we’re ready to take you to court.”
Judge Thomas Harris of the Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court imposed the penalty this week on Richard Morrow, owner of RWC Properties LLC and Circle M Oilfield Transportation, located in Williamsfield.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office sued Morrow and his businesses in 2018, citing the unlawful transport, storage and open burning of oil field waste.
In 2017, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency twice reported seeing Morrow burning waste in storage tanks capable of holding up to 250 barrels of material. Since then, inspections by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have noted large areas of soil stained by waste leaking from the tanks.
Morrow and his businesses have failed to address the violations, despite repeated orders from the Ohio EPA and ODNR to comply with the state’s environmental laws.
Baton Rouge Man Arrested for Illegal Discharge and Disposal, Criminal Damage
Investigators within the Criminal Investigations Section of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality arrested a Baton Rouge man for felony illegal discharges of pollutants to waters of the state, felony illegal disposal of substance that endangers or that could endanger human health, and simple criminal damage to property.
John Louis Hardy, 68, of Baton Rouge, allegedly purchased a warehouse located at 5055 Choctaw Drive in April 2017. The warehouse was a former tannery located adjacent to Hardy’s property located at 2553 Kincaid Avenue.
On April 8, 2019, LDEQ Emergency Response personnel, along with members of the Baton Rouge Fire Department, responded to an odor complaint at the corner of Choctaw Drive and Kincaid Avenue. Witnesses at the scene described several men, employed by Hardy, moving drums and containers from the former tannery and dumping them on the driveway outside of the warehouse. Some of the liquid substances flowed into a nearby ditch and began emitting a rotten egg odor.
LDEQ Emergency Response personnel, along with members of the Baton Rouge Fire Department, monitored the area for hydrogen sulfide, and found elevated readings of this toxic gas throughout the area during the incident. As a result, the Baton Rouge Police Department closed Kincaid Avenue to all traffic for several days after the incident. The City-Parish of East Baton Rouge paid more than $300,000 for remediation of the area.
“Illegal dumping of wastes into the waters of the state will not be tolerated, and LDEQ will continue working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law,” LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown said.
If convicted of the crime of knowingly illegally disposing of a substance that endangers or could endanger human health, Hardy faces possible imprisonment for not more than ten years with or without hard labor, or a fine of not more than $100,000, or both. If convicted of knowingly illegally disposing pollutants to waters of the state, Hardy faces possible imprisonment for not more than three years with or without hard labor, or a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000. If convicted of simple criminal damage to property, Hardy faces possible imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.
EPA Settlement with Gulfport Energy to Reduce Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Operations by 313 Tons Per Year
EPA announced a settlement with Oklahoma City-based Gulfport Energy Corp. for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at oil and natural gas production wells in Ohio.
Under the terms of the settlement, which addresses Gulfport’s failure to capture and control air emissions from storage vessels and to comply with associated inspection, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements, Gulfport will pay a $1.7 million penalty and invest approximately $2 million in improvements at 17 well pads in eastern Ohio to help reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by approximately 313 tons per year. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may cause adverse health effects.
“Gulfport has agreed to improve its operations to address these issues and to reduce air pollution,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “EPA is committed to reducing pollution and improving air quality throughout Ohio, helping residents breathe easier.”
Gulfport operates oil and natural gas production wells in eastern Ohio. The wells produce a mixture of natural gas, light crude oil known as condensate, and a naturally occurring wastewater known as “produced water.” Multiple wells are typically co-located on a single well pad along with production equipment, including condensate and produced water storage vessels.
In August 2015, EPA inspected several of Gulfport’s condensate-producing well pads and found systemic deficiencies in the company’s vapor capture and control systems for its storage vessels. In December 2016, EPA issued to Gulfport a finding of violation alleging failures of design and operational requirements of the vapor capture and control systems, along with associated inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
The settlement terms are included in a proposed consent decree that U.S. Department of Justice filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Expensive Phone Call
On October 28, 2019, a court sentenced Robert LaRue Webb, II. to pay a $2,500 fine and complete a two-year term of probation. Webb previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act for discharging oil into the Willamette River (33 U.S.C. §§ 1319(c)(1) (A). 1321 (b)(3)).
On January 22. 2018, Webb pumped oil into a 10,000-gallon used-oil tank at the Union Pacific Albina rail yard in Portland. Oregon. While operating the pump, the tank overflowed when Webb was distracted on a phone call. More than 1,000 gallons of oil entered a stormwater drain and discharged into the river. resulting in a sheen on the river's surface.
The EPA Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation.
Lone Star Industries Inc. Issued Final Hazardous Waste Permit to Continue Fuel-Blending Operations
Lone Star, doing business as Buzzi Unicem USA, Incorporated, operates a commercial hazardous waste storage and treatment facility at the site, located at 2524 S. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau. Lone Star operates a dry process cement kiln at the site, which produces clinker, the main ingredient in Portland cement. Lone Star also operates a commercial hazardous waste storage and treatment facility at the site. Lone Star uses coal, petroleum coke, tires, and other nonhazardous alternative fuels to heat its kiln, but supplements its fuel needs with a variety of liquid and solid hazardous waste-derived fuels. Lone Star’s hazardous waste fuel program includes receiving, sampling, off-loading, storing, and processing the liquid and solid hazardous wastes received at the facility. The liquid hazardous wastes are blended with other hazardous waste to achieve the desired fuel characteristics. The resulting wastes are stored in tanks until fed to Lone Star’s rotary kiln as liquid fuel.
Lone Star has been operating at the site under a department-issued Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Facility Part I Permit and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-issued Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Part II Permit. On February 10, 2009, Lone Star submitted a permit application to the department and EPA to renew and update its existing hazardous waste permits.
No comments were made on the draft Part I Permit during the public comment period. Any parties adversely affected or aggrieved by the department’s decision to issue the final Part I Permit or by specific conditions of the final Part I Permit may be entitled to pursue an appeal before the Administrative Hearing Commission by filing a written petition by March 2, 2020, as more fully described on page 6 of the final Part I Permit.
The final Part I Permit and additional information are available online at or at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, 711 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau. For more information about the final Part I Permit or to obtain a written copy of the final Part I Permit for review, contact Mr. Nathan Kraus, PE, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Hazardous Waste Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176, 573-751-3154 or 800-361-4827, or by email at Hearing- and speech-impaired individuals may reach Kraus through Relay Missouri at 800-735-2966.
Pennsylvania to Unveil Draft Regulations to Cap CO2 Emissions Using RGGI Model
On February 13, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will unveil preliminary draft regulations to allow Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
DEP will provide details about the preliminary rulemaking language, which would design a carbon dioxide trading program in Pennsylvania using the RGGI Model Rule but also incorporating revisions and additions specific to Pennsylvania, to the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee (AQTAC) at its bimonthly meeting in Harrisburg.
RGGI is a market-based collaboration among 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while generating economic growth. Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order in October 2019 instructing DEP to begin the regulatory process of participating in RGGI.
The preliminary draft is consistent with the RGGI Model Rule but has several specific distinctions: it adds a waste coal set-aside allowance allocation; it adds a qualifying offset for abandoned well plugging; it provides flexibility for on-site generation tied to manufacturing facilities; and it includes an auction provision, indicating that DEP will determine whether to participate in a multi-state auction based on certain factors or hold a Pennsylvania-run auction.
At this time, this preliminary draft will be presented to AQTAC for informational purposes only; a draft proposed regulation, as required by the governor’s Executive Order, will be presented to the Environmental Quality Board on July 21.
Details are available on DEP’s website.
States Sues EPA for Gutting Safety Protections for Chemical Accidents
Attorney General Letitia James, lead a coalition of 15 state attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia, sued the EPA for gutting safeguards for those exposed to dangerous chemical accidents. Specifically, the coalition is challenging the EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its “Risk Management Program” (RMP) regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made critical improvements to the RMP to better safeguard against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.
“More than nine million New Yorkers live, work, and play in the shadow of facilities that store and use toxic chemicals,” said Attorney General James. “The Trump EPA is gutting critical safeguards against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at these facilities, putting New Yorkers in harm’s way. I am taking this fight to the courts, because every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe and healthy environment.”
The Trump Administration's EPA finalized a rule that rolls back critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule in December 2019, which eliminated safeguards in accident prevention programs designed to protect communities and prevent future accidents. These changes included the elimination of independent audits conducted by third-parties and “root cause” analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent or lessen harms from accidents. The EPA also cut back on training requirements and requiring facilities to share information with first responders and nearby communities on hazardous chemicals used on site.
In August 2018, a coalition of 12 attorneys general — led by the New York Attorney General’s Office — submitted extensive comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule, arguing that the proposal, if adopted, would be “arbitrary and capricious” and “inconsistent with the Clean Air Act.” The coalition urged the EPA to heed the warning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the agency’s single-minded focus on industry costs of complying with the rule made a “mockery” out of the Clean Air Act.
Some chemical plants continue to have a potential for accidents that pose a serious danger to the public. In fact, since the attorneys general submitted supplemental comments on the proposed rule last summer, accidents at facilities regulated under the RMP have occurred across the country, causing deaths, injuries, and evacuations. For example, in November 2019, the massive explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas released toxic plumes of butadiene and other carcinogens into the air, injured at least eight people, and required the evacuation of over 60,000 residents from the surrounding communities.
According to publicly available data, 169 facilities covered by RMP regulations are located in New York, including Amrex Chemical (Binghamton), Arch Chemicals (Rochester), Durez Corp. (Niagara Falls), FMC Industrial Chemicals (Tonawanda), MPM Silicones (Waterford), International Paper (Ticonderoga), JCI Jones Chemicals (Warwick), Momentive Specialty Chemicals (South Glens Falls), PVS Chemical Solutions (Buffalo), Surpass Chemical (Albany), and Twin Lakes Chemical (Lockport).
The available data shows that more than 9.1 million people live within the “vulnerability zone” of RMP facilities in New York; vulnerability zones are the maximum possible area where a worst-case release of chemicals could harm people. A 2014 report by the Center for Effective Government (CEG) entitled “Kids in Danger Zones” found that New York had the fifth largest number of schools (2,210) and number of students (1,027,864 – 33 percent of all students) located in vulnerability zones.
The coalition’s petition for review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining Attorney General James in the suit are the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the City of Philadelphia.
This matter is being handled by Attorney General James’ Environmental Protection Bureau by Special Assistant Attorney General Sarah K. Kam, Environmental Scientist John D. Davis, and Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers — all of the Environmental Protection Bureau — under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Michael Colangelo. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Harcros Chemicals to Pay $1 Million for Clean Air Act Violations
Harcros Chemicals, Inc., of Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty to violating a federal clean air law in connection with a toxic chlorine gas cloud that formed over Atchison, Kan., in 2016, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
According to the company’s plea agreement, Harcros is expected to pay a $1 million fine. The co-defendant in the case, MGP Ingredients, Inc., of Atchison pleaded guilty in November in the same case. That company also is expected to pay a $1 million fine.
Harcros pleaded guilty to negligently violating the federal Clean Air Act. In its plea, the company admitted that on Oct. 21, 2016, a greenish-yellow chlorine gas cloud formed when 4,000 gallons of sulfuric acid were mistakenly combined with 5,800 gallons of sodium hypochlorite. The Atchison County Department of Emergency Management ordered community members to shelter in place and to evacuate in some areas. Approximately 140 individuals including members of the public, first responders, employees of MGP Ingredients and Harcros Chemicals sought medical attention.
“The chemicals involved in this case posed serious public health and environmental dangers,” said Assistant Director Justin Oesterreich of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Kansas.  “EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding responsible parties accountable for actions that put an entire community at risk.”
Harcros is set for sentencing May 27.
Victims can get more information on US v. Midwest Grain Products, Inc., by visiting and filling out a victim questionnaire, leaving a message on a designated phone line at 913-551-6543 or emailing questions to
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