These Lithium-ion Batteries Can’t Catch Fire Because They Harden on Impact

September 10, 2018
Lithium-ion batteries used in consumer electronics are notorious for bursting into flame when damaged or improperly packaged. These incidents occasionally have grave consequences, including burns, house fires and at least one plane crash. Inspired by the weird behavior of some liquids that solidify on impact, researchers have developed a practical and inexpensive way to help prevent these fires.
They will present their results at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes,” Gabriel Veith, Ph.D., says. “If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery’s liquid electrolyte to catch fire.”
To make these batteries safer, some researchers instead use a nonflammable, solid electrolyte. But these solid-state batteries require significant retooling of the current production process, Veith says. As an alternative, his team mixes an additive into the conventional electrolyte to create an impact-resistant electrolyte. It solidifies when hit, preventing the electrodes from touching if the battery is damaged during a fall or crash. If the electrodes don’t touch each other, the battery doesn’t catch fire. Even better, incorporating the additive would require only minor adjustments to the conventional battery manufacturing process.
The project’s eureka moment came when Veith and his kids were playing with a mix of cornstarch and water known as oobleck. “If you put the mixture on a cookie tray, it flows like a liquid until you start poking it, and then it becomes a solid,” says Veith, who is based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is the project’s principal investigator. After the pressure is removed, the substance liquefies again. Veith realized he could exploit this reversible “shear thickening” behavior to make batteries safer.
This characteristic depends on a colloid, which is a suspension of tiny, solid particles in a liquid. In the case of oobleck, the colloid consists of cornstarch particles suspended in water. For the battery colloid, Veith and his colleagues at Oak Ridge and the University of Rochester used silica suspended in common liquid electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries. On impact, the silica particles clump together and block the flow of fluids and ions, he explains. The researchers used perfectly spherical, 200-nanometer-diameter particles of silica, or essentially a superfine sand. “If you have that very uniform particle size, the particles disperse homogeneously in the electrolyte, and it works wonderfully,” Veith says. “If they’re not homogenously sized, then the liquid becomes less viscous on impact, and that’s bad.”
A few other labs have been studying shear thickening to make batteries safer. One team previously reported on research with “fumed” silica, which consists of tiny irregular particles of silica. Another group recently reported on the effect of using rod-shaped silica particles. Veith thinks his spherical particles might be easier to make than the rod-shaped silica and have a faster response and more stopping power on impact than fumed silica.
One of Veith’s major advances involves the production process for the batteries. During manufacture of traditional lithium-ion batteries, an electrolyte is squirted into the battery case at the end of the production process, and then the battery is sealed. “You can’t do that with a shear-thickening electrolyte because the minute you try to inject it, it solidifies,” he says. The researchers solved this by putting the silica in place before adding the electrolyte. They are seeking a patent on their technique.
In the future, Veith plans to enhance the system so the part of the battery that’s damaged in a crash would remain solid, while the rest of the battery would go on working. The team is initially aiming for applications such as drone batteries, but they would eventually like to enter the automotive market. They also plan to make a bigger version of the battery, which would be capable of stopping a bullet. That could benefit soldiers, who often carry 20 pounds of body armor and 20 pounds of batteries when they’re on a mission, Veith says. “The battery would function as their armor, and that would lighten the average soldier by about 20 pounds.”
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Biodegradable Plastic Blends Offer New Options for Disposal
Imagine throwing your empty plastic water bottle into a household composting bin that breaks down the plastic and produces biogas to help power your home. Now, researchers have taken an early step toward this futuristic scenario by showing that certain blends of bioplastics can decompose under diverse conditions. They reported their results in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Plastic waste pollution is a global environmental problem, particularly in oceans, where plastic debris can harm or kill sea animals and birds who ingest or become entangled in it. Despite increased levels of recycling in many countries, most plastic waste still ends up in landfills or the environment. Scientists have developed biodegradable plastics, but they often lack the flexibility, strength or toughness of conventional plastics. Blends of different bioplastics can offer improved characteristics, but their environmental fate is uncertain. Tanja Narancic, Kevin O’Connor, Ramesh Babu Padamati and colleagues wanted to examine the degradation of individual bioplastics and their blends under various conditions.
The researchers studied the fates of 15 different plastics or blends under managed conditions, such as composting and anaerobic digestion, as well as unmanaged environments, including soil and fresh or marine water. Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the best-selling biodegradable plastics on the market, but it requires high temperatures for breakdown and is not home-compostable. Surprisingly, a blend of PLA and polycaprolactone (PCL) degraded completely to carbon dioxide, biomass and water under typical home-composting conditions. Many of the individual plastics and blends that were tested decomposed under conditions of anaerobic digestion, a process that can produce biogas, and all degraded with industrial composting. The researchers say that biodegradable plastic blends could create new possibilities for managing plastic waste. However, only two plastics, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and thermoplastic starch (TPS), broke down completely under all soil and water conditions.  Therefore, biodegradable plastics are not a panacea for plastic pollution, and they must be managed carefully after they leave the consumer, the researchers say.
Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 discussion draft. The discussion draft reauthorizes the ESA for the first time since 1992. The discussion draft emphasizes elevating the role of states and increasing transparency in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also prioritizes resources to better meet its conservation goals and provides regulatory certainty to promote conservation and recovery activities.
Brasso stated, “when it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough. We must do more than just keep listed species on life support - we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process. It will promote the recovery of species and allow local economies to flourish. I have worked closely with the bipartisan Western Governors’ Association to draft a bill that works for endangered species and people alike.”
Chairman Barrasso worked closely with the bipartisan Western Governors’ Association (WGA) to write bipartisan discussion draft legislation. The WGA has stated that the Chairman’s discussion draft legislation is consistent with the WGA recommendations for modernizing the ESA and includes provisions directly from the association’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act initiative, led by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.
The discussion draft legislation will: 
  • Elevate the role of state conservation agencies in species management;
  • Increase transparency associated with carrying out conservation under the Act;
  • Prioritize available resources for species recovery;
  • Provide regulatory certainty for landowners and other stakeholders to facilitate participation in conservation and recovery activities;
  • Require that listing of any species must also include recovery goals, habitat objectives, and other criteria established by the Secretary of Interior, in consultation with impacted states, for the delisting or downlisting of the species; 
  • Require that the satisfaction of such criteria must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available;
  • Enable states the opportunity to lead recovery efforts for listed species, including through a species’ recovery team;
  • Allow such a recovery team to modify a recovery goal, habitat objective, or other established criteria, by unanimous vote with the approval of the secretary of the Interior;
  • Increase federal consultation with local communities;
  • Improve transparency of information regarding the status of a listed species;
  • Create a prioritization system for addressing listing petitions, status reviews, and proposed and final determinations, based on the urgency of a species’ circumstances, conservation efforts, and available data and information so that resources can be utilized in the most effective manner;
  • Include studies on how to improve conservation efforts and to understand in greater depth the extent of resources being expended across the federal government associated with implementation of the act; and
  • Reauthorize the ESA for the first time since its funding authorization expired in 1992.
Read a section-by-section of the draft legislation here.
California Legislature Approves Bill Reducing Super-polluting HFCs in Major Cooling Systems
The California Legislature approved the California Cooling Act, which will lead to the replacement of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons with climate friendlier coolants in new refrigerators, air conditioners, and other products, and in supermarkets and other large buildings. The bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown also will help keep in place federal standards phasing down harmful HFCs under challenge in Washington.
David Doniger, Senior Strategic Director of the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council stated, “California is demonstrating, once again, commendable leadership in the fight against climate change. This bill will curb super-polluting HFCs in some of the largest refrigerating systems, and it fills a gap left by an adverse federal court decision that blocked Environmental Protection Agency rules to phase down HFCs—a decision now on appeal to the Supreme Court. This smart move will help our climate, health and economy.”
New Mexico Terminates Punitive Charge on Solar Customers
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) ordered Southwestern Public Service (SPS) to terminate Rate 59, a fee on solar customers that cost typical households with rooftop solar more than $300 a year. Since 2011, Rate 59 has limited SPS customers’ ability to save money on their utility bills with solar energy, even as the cost of solar has plummeted in that period, and as a result there are only around 112 households with solar in SPS’s New Mexico service area. The PRC also plans to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to clarify how the state statute pertaining to solar surcharges will be interpreted in the future.
“Today’s decision is a victory for SPS customers who finally have the freedom to choose affordable solar and the opportunity to save money on their electric bill. Ending this punitive charge is especially welcome news for low-income and fixed-income residents who spend a higher portion of their income on utility bills, yet for years were unable to lower their bills with solar because of this charge,” said Rick Gilliam, Vote Solar’s program director of DG regulatory policy and expert witness in the proceeding. “We applaud Hearing Examiner Carolyn Glick and the Commission for reviewing the facts and putting control over energy bills back in the hands of New Mexico residents.”
Earthjustice and Vote Solar, in partnership with local counsel Jason Marks and the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, showed that Rate 59 discriminatorily collects extra fees from customers who are less expensive to serve than other customers, forced solar customers to pay for costs unrelated to their own rooftop solar, and that SPS failed to consider the proven economic benefits that rooftop solar provides to all customers, such as avoiding the need for new power lines and displacing more expensive sources of power. Rate 59 was one of the most punitive solar customer fees in the country.
“I’m incredibly thankful to Earthjustice, Vote Solar and Jason Marks. The existence of Rate 59 highlights the importance of civic engagement,” said Chris Dizon, founder of Endless Energy, expert witness in the case as a small solar developer, and Vote Solar member. “Go to town halls, talk to your commissioner and vote when the time comes. We need to ensure that our elected commissioners support fair electric rates and strong self-generation policies.”
In its final order, the Commission identified a number of problematic aspects with Rate 59:
  • The standby rate is not cost-based;
  • SPS’s study of the costs and benefits of distributed generation was “riddled with errors” and unreliable; and
  • SPS did not calculate the benefits of distributed generation to the SPS system.
“Without Rate 59, families and small businesses in southeast New Mexico will have the first meaningful opportunity in years to invest in rooftop solar,” said Earthjustice attorney Sara Gersen. “This is great news for New Mexico. More clean energy from rooftop solar means less dirty energy from burning coal and gas.”  
“We applaud the Commission’s decision to eliminate this utility-imposed penalty on customers who want to contribute to their energy needs,” Megan O’Reilly, attorney for the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy stated. “The eastern part of our state also has fantastic renewable resources and SPS customers should be able to take advantage of those.”
The Commission will open a rulemaking to consider corporate utilities’ ability to impose future fees on customers with rooftop solar and other on-site energy generation. New Mexico statute only allows these special fees to recover the costs of ancillary and standby services. The Hearing Examiner in the SPS case recommended the Commission rule that Rate 59 was also invalid because the types of costs it collected were not the costs of providing ancillary and standby services. The Commissioners chose not to adopt this part of the recommendation, which would have prevented SPS from reapplying to charge solar customers for these costs in the future, and also set a precedent for what the other corporate utilities could charge solar customers. Earthjustice, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and Vote Solar will keep fighting to make sure the Commission doesn’t allow unlawful solar fees in the future.
In an earlier 2015 settlement, Earthjustice, Vote Solar, and the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy successfully prevented SPS from raising the rate for most customers and decreased it for others. The decision by the Commission to cancel the rate altogether came after SPS sought to raise the rate yet again, this time by about 14%.
California Legislature Approves Bill Reducing Super-polluting HFCs in Major Cooling Systems
The California Legislature has approved the California Cooling Act, which will lead to the replacement of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons with climate friendlier coolants in new refrigerators, air conditioners, and other products, and in supermarkets and other large buildings. The bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown also will help keep in place federal standards phasing down harmful HFCs under challenge in Washington.
David Doniger, Senior Strategic Director of the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “California is demonstrating, once again, commendable leadership in the fight against climate change. This bill will curb super-polluting HFCs in some of the largest refrigerating systems, and it fills a gap left by an adverse federal court decision that blocked Environmental Protection Agency rules to phase down HFCs—a decision now on appeal to the Supreme Court. This smart move will help our climate, health and economy.”
Many Arctic Pollutants Decrease After Market Removal and Regulation
Levels of some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) regulated by the Stockholm Convention are decreasing in the Arctic, according to an international team of researchers who have been actively monitoring the northern regions of the globe.
POPs are a diverse group of long-lived chemicals that can travel long distances from their source of manufacture or use. Many POPs were used extensively in industry, consumer products or as pesticides in agriculture. Well-known POPs include chemicals such as DDT and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and some of the products they were used in included flame retardants and fabric coatings.
Because POPs were found to cause health problems for people and wildlife, they were largely banned or phased out of production in many countries. Many have been linked to reproductive, developmental, neurological and immunological problems in mammals. The accumulation of DDT, a well-known and heavily used POP, was also linked to eggshell-thinning in fish-eating birds, such as eagles and pelicans, in the late 20th century, and caused catastrophic population declines for those animals.
In 2001, 152 countries signed a United Nations treaty in Stockholm, Sweden intended to eliminate, restrict or minimize unintentional production of 12 of the most widely used POPs. Later amendments added more chemicals to the initial list. Today, more than 33 POP chemicals or groups are covered by what is commonly called the “Stockholm Convention,” which has been recognized by 182 countries.
“This paper shows that following the treaty and earlier phase-outs have largely resulted in a decline of these contaminants in the Arctic,” says John Kucklick, a biologist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the senior U.S. author on the paper, published August 23 in Science of the Total Environment. “When POP use was curtailed, the change was reflected by declining concentrations in the environment.”
“In general, the contaminants that are being regulated are decreasing,” says Frank Rigét from the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark, and lead author.
POPs are particularly problematic in the Arctic because the ecosystem there is especially fragile, and pollution can come from both local sources and from thousands of miles away due to air and water currents. POPs also bioaccumulate. This means that they build up faster in animals and humans than they can be excreted, and that exposure can increase up the food chain. Plankton exposed to POPs in water are eaten by schools of fish, which are in turn eaten by seals or whales, and with each jump up the food chain the amount of POPs increases. The same is true for terrestrial animals. A large mammal’s exposure, therefore, can be large and long-lasting.
Indigenous people living in northern coastal areas such as Alaska often consume more fish and other animals that come from higher on the food chain than the average American. Such communities, therefore, are potentially exposed to larger amounts of these pollutants.
For almost two decades beginning in 2000, Kucklick and Rigét worked in conjunction with scientists from Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Iceland and Norway to track POPs in the fat of several marine mammals and in the tissue of shellfish and seabirds. They also monitored air in the Arctic circle for pollution.
To gain a fuller picture of how the deposition of POPs might have changed over time, the study included specimens archived since the 1980s and ’90s in special storage facilities around the globe. The U.S. specimens were provided by the NIST Biorepository, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Samples archived in that facility are part of the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP) or the Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project (STAMP). Both collections are conducted in collaboration with other federal agencies.
The study pooled more than 1,000 samples taken over the course of several decades from many different locations throughout the Arctic Circle. In general, the so-called legacy POPs—those that have been eliminated or restricted from production—were shown to be decreasing over the past two to three decades, although some had decreased more than others.
The biggest decreases were in a byproduct of the pesticide lindane, a-HCH, with a mean annual decline of 9 percent in Arctic wildlife.
The research team found PCBs had decreased as well. Most industrial countries banned PCBs in the 1970s and ’80s, and their production was reduced under the Stockholm Convention in 2004. Previously, the compounds had been widely used in electrical systems. In this study, it was found that their presence had decreased by almost 4 percent per year across the Arctic region since being pulled from the market.
Two of the legacy POPs listed under Stockholm, β-HCH and HCB, showed only small declines of less than 3 percent per year. β-HCH was part of a heavily-used pesticide mixture with the active ingredient lindane and HCB was used both in agriculture and industry.
A small number of the legacy POPs had increased in a few locations, although some of those were at sites suspected to be influenced by strong, still-existing local pollution sources.
Notably, the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) showed an annual increase of 7.6 percent. HBCDD was one of 16 additional POPs added to the Stockholm Convention as of 2017 and is recommended for elimination from use, with certain exemptions.
Most of the research conducted for this paper was a direct result of the 2001 treaty stipulations, which included a requirement that sponsors participate in ongoing, long-term biological monitoring. Although the U.S. participated in the research, it has not ratified the treaty. It is expected that work on the treaty will continue as new POPs are identified.
This recent research work highlights the usefulness of long-term data and international scientific collaboration, said Rigét. “You really need to gather more than 10 years of data before you can see the trend because in the short term there can be some small fluctuations,” he noted. “Looking at this data also showed us how to be more economical and avoid over-sampling in the future.”
PHMSA, FERC Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Strengthen Safety Review and Permitting Process for LNG Facility Proposals
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that the two agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will expedite coordination between the agencies during the permit application review process for proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.
“The Department is committed to eliminating unnecessary delays to the advancement of critical national energy infrastructure projects, while never compromising safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
The MOU clarifies each agency’s responsibilities related to the application review process for potential LNG projects, including PHMSA’s review for compliance with the siting requirements contained in Part 193 of the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations.  PHMSA will encapsulate its findings in a Letter of Determination, which FERC will accept as the authoritative determination of a proposed facility’s ability to comply with safety regulations.
“PHMSA’s LNG safety experts are fully prepared to analyze current and future project proposals, evaluate their potential impact on public safety, and reduce barriers to moving these projects forward,” said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott.
The agreement also refines information-sharing practices between the agencies, including all documents, information, and data submitted by facility applicants.
The MOU was initially announced by FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre during opening remarks for the July 19 Commission meeting at FERC headquarters.
Vacuum Insulation, Not Just for Drink Cups
Vacuum insulation technology called modified atmosphere insulation, or MAI, could be a viable solution for improving the energy performance of buildings, based on a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and industry partners. ORNL researchers used a specialized environmental chamber to characterize panels containing foam-encapsulated MAI cores and exposed them to outdoor weatherization tests via real building applications. Laboratory experiments verified the panels’ thermal resistance to heat flow to be at least twice that of current building insulation materials made of plastic foams, cellulose or fiberglass. “Buildings consume 40 percent of the nation’s energy and about 20 percent of the buildings’ portion is due to heat gains or losses through the building enclosure,” said ORNL’s Kaushik Biswas, lead coauthor of the study. “We’ve proven that MAI-based composites are technically viable options for buildings providing higher performance than current insulations.” The team’s results were published in the journal Applied Energy.
California Legislature Sends Climate Action Bill to Governor Brown
Senate Bill 100 (SB 100), a bill that will shift the state’s transition to a clean energy economy into overdrive is now headed to the governor’s desk. SB 100 accelerates the previous commitment to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 by four years and sets a new goal of California reaching 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045.
Natural Resources Defense Council’s Linda Escalante, Southern California Legislative Director made the following statement, "Californians are counting on our state leaders to provide the climate leadership the world needs to move away from fossil fuels to a clean energy future. SB 100 is a major move toward curbing the threat of climate change to our health and our children’s future, especially in communities that are disproportionately bearing the heavy brunt of pollution. Our state has a tremendous opportunity to prove that setting ambitious targets for renewable and carbon-free electricity can be reached and exceeded.”
Mora Development Sentenced to Pay A Fine Of $3 Million For Violation of The Clean Water Act
United States District Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo has sentenced MORA Development to pay a fine of $3 million, serve a five-year term of probation and make restitution to a family whose children were affected by the criminal conduct. Judge Cerezo ordered that Mr. Cleofe Rubi-Gonzalez personally guarantee payment of all financial obligations imposed on the company.
Mora Development Corporation previously pled guilty to a one-count Information charging a violation of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. Section 1311 and 1319 (c) (2) for discharging the sanitary wastewater generated from residences at Las Cascadas II Development in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico from a holding tank through a point source (a by-pass pipe) into the Toa Alta Municipal storm water system and then into Quilan Creek which flows into La Plata River, a water of the United States without a National Pollution Elimination System (NPDS) permit. La Plata River serves approximately 80,000 people in Puerto Rico.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to enforce federal laws which protect the environment and the public,” said Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Today’s sentence should serve as a deterrent to those who consider discharging waste water into our creeks. Our office will continue to work with all law enforcement agencies in order to help prevent release of hazardous material into our creeks, protect workers and the local community.”
“Mora Development Corporation knowingly cut corners to save money by discharging raw sewage into the La Plata River without proper treatment in violation of the Clean Water Act,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent-in-Charge of Criminal Investigation Division for EPA’s Region 2 Office in New York. “The scheme to hide an illegal sewage system is a short-sighted business decision that put the community’s health and environment at risk. EPA will continue to work directly with our Commonwealth partners to investigate and seek prosecution of environmental crime offenders.”
The government presented evidence that over the course of the time prior to properly connecting with PRASA, MORA discharged more than 29,000,000 gallons of sewage into the municipal stormwater system and into Quilan Creek.
The former Project Manager, Jose Merino had also pled guilty previously and was sentenced to 6 months’ probation.
The case was prosecuted by the Howard P. Stewart Senior Litigation Counsel of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorney Carmen Marquez of the United States Attorney’s Office. The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Criminal Investigation Division.
California Tropical Forest Standard Creates Stringent Model for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tropical Forests
As the Global Climate Action Summit draws near, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unveiled a proposal for a science-based standard to ensure that greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions from tropical forest carbon offset programs are real, verifiable and additional to carbon mitigation efforts already underway around the world.
“Recent research has found that the world’s tropical forests are now emitting twice as much carbon dioxide as they sequester,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “That means we are wasting the promise of one of the world’s greatest natural GHG emissions reducing tools. The California Tropical Forest Standard offers an opportunity to curb that waste by providing reduced emissions and improving forest health, while also providing increased protection and economic opportunity for the people who live in and most directly care for our tropical forests.”
The California Standard Carbon offsets are used by companies that must comply with a regulatory requirement to reduce their GHG emissions. An offset represents an actual emissions reduction that takes place somewhere other than the site of the facility with the compliance obligation. In this case, that would be a rain forest.
The proposed California Tropical Forest Standard supplies metrics to assess offset crediting programs that reduce emissions from tropical deforestation. The standard also specifies critical social and environmental safeguards designed to ensure indigenous and local communities are involved in the design, implementation, and benefits of any offset program. Reducing emissions from deforestation, combined with the sequestration potential of forests, may account for as much as 50 percent of the climate mitigation solution. The standard is available now for use in programs across the globe acting to reduce GHG emissions in tropical forests. It also provides criteria for potential future inclusion of international offsets in a cap-and-trade program.
In California, the proposed standard provides a basis for a future public regulatory process to incorporate the standard into CARB’s Cap-and-Trade Regulation. The standard would not allow tropical forest offsets into the existing Cap-and-Trade Program without such a public process. Nor would it result in any immediate linkage with other jurisdictions; any such linkage would require that CARB conduct linkage findings pursuant to Senate Bill 1018.
AB 32, approved by the legislature in 2006, directed CARB to consult with national governments and other jurisdictions to identify the most effective strategies and methods to reduce GHGs and manage GHG control programs. It also specifically directed CARB to facilitate the development of integrated and cost-effective regional, national and international GHG reduction programs.
CARB began assessing emerging international mitigation actions as it developed the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan in 2008 and the California Cap-and-Trade Program, adopted in 2011.  One of the most studied sectors for mitigation internationally is tropical forests.
A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Impact found that most of the excess emissions in tropical forests are caused by human activity. Specifically, the study found that 53 percent of GHG emissions come from timber harvesting, 30 percent are due to wood harvest for fuel, and 17 percent from fire.
The proposed standard leverages nearly a decade of work by the California-founded Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force and GCF partnerships with indigenous communities. Additionally, it builds on commitments by dozens of governments in the Under 2 Coalition.
“This required a lot of hard work and collaboration with our GCF partner jurisdictions, indigenous leaders from within and outside the GCF, and key efforts by leading scientists and national governments such as Norway and Mexico,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “We are excited to advance this standard to recognize and enhance efforts at reducing GHG emissions from tropical deforestation at the jurisdiction scale.”
The standard expands upon existing best-practices from the United Nations and other international bodies such as the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Carbon Fund, previous staff work evaluating expert recommendations and public input, voluntary carbon market tools and efforts, and GCF Task Force member programs.
Company & Company Manager Sentenced for Unlawfully Taking Migratory Birds
Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc. (MPI), and Chris Theisen, 43, production manager at MPI, Janesville, Wisconsin, entered guilty pleas and were sentenced before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker for taking or killing migratory birds in excess of those authorized by permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  MPI, and Theisen as the responsible manager of MPI, admitted that in February 2014 they took and killed migratory birds, specifically red-tailed hawks, in excess of the number which was authorized by a depredation permit they possessed. 
 MacFarlane Pheasants, Inc., raises and sells pheasants commercially. MPI had obtained permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to 2014 to allow them to kill hawks that were undeterred by other measures and preyed on the MPI pheasants, sometimes causing thousands of dollars in losses to the business.  In 2014, MPI held a permit which would allow the taking or killing of up to 10 red-tailed hawks that year.  In 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents received a tip and subsequently developed evidence that MPI had taken more than 10 hawks in 2014, while representing in documents required to be filed with U.S. Fish and Wildlife that they had taken no hawks in 2014.
MPI was sentenced to pay the maximum fine of $15,000, and Chris Theisen was sentenced to pay $5,000.  The Court ordered both fines to be paid to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund Account.  Additionally, MPI and Theisen were banned from applying for any depredation permits for five years.
U.S. Attorney Blader praised the efforts of the federal and state wildlife investigators which resulted in a guilty pleas and sentencing.
With respect to criminal prosecution and associated penalties for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jackson stated, “While we have a system in place to help farmers and ranchers with the depredation of their animals, it’s essential that permit holders follow the law and work with us to find legal solutions.”
The charge against MPI and Theisen was the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Anderson.
Northern California Landowner Cited for Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act Violations 
A federal district court judge approved a settlement resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act in and around the Van Duzen River by Humboldt County landowner, Jack Noble.  The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Alex G. Tse, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division (ENRD) Jeffrey H. Wood, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Michael Stoker, and Assistant Director for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries West Coast Division Office of Law Enforcement Greg Busch.
The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Saundra B. Armstrong on Monday, August 27, 2018, includes a consent decree pursuant to which Noble will remove concrete and other debris that he dumped into the Van Duzen River in an attempt to armor the river’s banks.  Noble also will create woody alcoves in the river for fish habitat and revegetate the banks to restore the river.  Under the decree, Noble also will pay a $10,000 civil penalty and is enjoined from additional work in the Van Duzen without first obtaining a clearance from relevant federal agencies.  
The Clean Water Act requires any person who plans to discharge fill in any portion of rivers (or other waters of the United States) to obtain a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers or authorized state. Further, the Endangered Species Act protects listed species and prohibits killing listed species, injuring them, or significantly modifying or degrading their habitat.  In this case, Noble placed fill and other pollutants in sections of the Van Duzen River, a designated Wild and Scenic River that serves as habitat to protected coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead trout.  He did so without obtaining a permit and despite warnings from state and federal officials.  These activities altered the reach of the river, had an adverse impact on critical fish spawning areas, and otherwise crushed or stranded fish.
“The federal law has been crafted to protect certain areas from unpermitted construction and dumping,” said U.S. Attorney Alex G. Tse.  “Today’s settlement would ensure that this critical habitat in Humboldt County will be restored to the condition it was before pollutants were introduced in and around the Van Duzen River.  We will continue to use the resources of this office to ensure that federal laws are enforced for the protection of our environment.”
“The Van Duzen River is not only a place for recreation, but also serves as an important water supply for the communities of Humboldt County, California,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resource Division. “Today’s settlement shows that the Justice Department will continue to work closely with its partners at the federal, state and local level to ensure the longevity of our natural resources and make sure that companies, as well as individuals, comply with the Clean Water Act.”
“Today’s settlement will help restore one of California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers and enhance habitat for salmon,” said Regional Administrator Mike Stoker with the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “EPA looks forward to continuing to work with our local, state and federal partners to monitor the restoration work’s success.”
“NOAA is committed to enforcing regulations for the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species,” said Greg Busch, Assistant Director for NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, West Coast Division. “This case is an excellent example of how state and federal agencies work together to reduce the harmful effect of human activities on protected species and their habitats.”
This litigation was handled jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Pyle of the Northern District of California and Trial Attorneys John Thomas Do, Simi Bhat, and Andrea Gelatt of the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.  The resolution of this case is the result of a joint effort by EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA who are often aided by their state counterparts as well as groups and individuals who report suspected violations.  This matter was brought to the attention of the federal agencies by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and members of the public.  
Business Owner Guilty of Polluting Big Piney River
Brian Dale Fleming, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant (used grease) into the Big Piney River without a permit.  Fleming is the owner of BF Byproducts, LLC, which is located in Cabool. BF Byproducts (formerly Fleming Recycling) is a grease-recycling business. BF Byproducts uses trucks to collect used grease from hundreds of restaurants in Missouri, Arkansas and elsewhere. The grease is transported to the Cabool facility, where it is recycled for resale and a profit.
Drivers who work for BF Byproducts collect the used grease for further processing at the Cabool facility where it is hosed from the collection trucks to a pit at the facility. From the pit, the grease is pumped to tanks located on the facility for further heating. The heating process separates the used grease; any grease that falls to the bottom of the heat processing tank is considered waste.
Because the waste was not needed, employees were instructed by Fleming to pump the waste grease down the hill from the main plant processing facility. This waste grease that was illegally pumped from BF Byproducts entered an unnamed tributary that leads into the Big Piney River.
On April 2, 2015, the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) executed a search warrant at BF Byproducts in conjunction with the Texas County, Mo., Sheriff's Department. The search warrant was issued after numerous residents near and adjacent to the grease processing facility complained of used grease being found in nearby ditches and tributaries leading to the Big Piney River.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the government and Fleming recommend a fine of $15,000 and a restitution payment to the state of Missouri of $3,818. This recommendation is made in light of the fact that Fleming already served a year and a day of incarceration after being convicted in a separate criminal case, in which he participated (with his brother and co-defendant) in a conspiracy to steal spent cooking oil from restaurants and transport the stolen property across state lines to a grease recycling business in Tulsa, Okla. Additionally, there was a Superfund cleanup conducted at BF Byproducts, and the plea agreement anticipates that there may be costs associated with the cleanup that are separate and apart from this criminal proceeding. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull II. It was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Texas County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Cabool, Mo., Police Department.
Wood Treater Cited for Hazardous Waste Handling, Storage Violations
J.H. Baxter & Company has agreed take corrective action at their Eugene, Oregon wood treatment facility for mishandling and improper storage of hazardous waste. They will also pay a $64,000 penalty as part of the agreement.
“These are significant violations of the regulations intended to ensure the safe handling of hazardous waste like creosote and pentachlorophenol,” said EPA Region 10 Office of Compliance and Enforcement Director Ed Kowalski. “It’s especially important to prevent further groundwater contamination, which can leave a harmful legacy to people and the environment.”
In 2014, inspectors from the EPA found multiple violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a federal law intended to ensure safe management of hazardous waste from the moment it’s generated to its final disposal.
Specifically, the EPA found staining from the wood preservatives creosote and pentachlorophenol on an asphalt pad outside of a containment area, found an unmarked and undated container of hazardous waste from wood treating activities, and found that Baxter was not adequately cleaning a drip pad to prevent ‘penta’ and creosote from migrating from the containment area.
Baxter is currently working with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to clean up contaminated groundwater at the site, and EPA’s enforcement action is focused on the prevention of recontamination of the soil and groundwater from the operation of the wood treatment facility. 
The company has already taken corrective actions to prevent potential land-based contamination from moving offsite. These actions, which resolve one count of the EPA consent order filed from the 2014 inspection, will help to protect the surrounding community and reduce the necessity for additional future cleanup activities.
The second count of the consent order noted the company’s failure to maintain a waste management plan to be used were the facility to close. While the company has no plans to close the Eugene facility, to resolve this violation, the company has agreed to work with ODEQ to develop such a plan.
International Paper Fined for Hydraulic Oil Release
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined International Paper $20,800 for violations related to a hydraulic oil release that caused a sheen along the McKenzie River in March 2018. The sheen was observable as far as 7.5 miles downstream and persisted for at least two days.
The release occurred March 12, 2018 and likely reached the river on March 13, 2018. International Paper was informed of a sheen on the river around 2 p.m. on March 13, but failed to report the release to the Oregon Emergency Response System until 7:26 p.m. The delay in reporting caused a delay in the response and cleanup. DEQ assessed a $6,400 penalty for this violation and a $14,400 penalty for the spill.
Earlier in the day on March 13, an angler on the McKenzie River near Harvest Lane boat landing, about 2.5 miles downstream of the outfall, noticed the oil sheen and notified the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The ODFW employee notified the company of the sheen near its outfall. The same day, the Lane County’s Sheriff’s Office investigated the sheen and reported in to the Oregon Emergency Response System at 5:50 p.m. DEQ learned of the release shortly afterward.
About 1,000 gallons of hydraulic oil was released when a hydraulic line at the facility broke. Wastewater lagoons on the site captured some of the oil. The remainder flowed into a catch basin that eventually discharges into the McKenzie River two miles downstream. At least 95 gallons of oil entered the McKenzie River.
International Paper hired a contractor, Clean Harbors, to deploy booms clean up oil residue from the pipe and its wastewater treatment system.
The release took place in an area designated as critical habitat for the Willamette Spring Chinook salmon and the Willamette bull trout. The area is also a popular spot for fishing and recreation.
While cleanup efforts were underway, access was restricted to the McKenzie River around the release site until March 22. There were no documented impacts to fish or other wildlife. Drinking water was not affected.
When oil reaches waterways it can harm aquatic life and ecosystems and adversely affect beneficial uses of the waterways such as recreation. DEQ requires immediate reporting to ensure a prompt and effective response. The company has until Sept. 19 to appeal the fine.
Stormwater Construction General Permit Electronic Filing Required in TX
Effective Sept. 1, 2018, applicants seeking authorization or termination under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Construction General Permit (TXR150000) must submit the Notice of Intent (NOI) or Notice of Termination (NOT) electronically using the online e-permitting system (STEERS).
The Notice of Change (NOC) and Low Rainfall Erosivity Waiver (LREW) must also be submitted using the STEERS website.
Once you have created a STEERS account, you can apply online through ePermits.  Before you submit your application, make sure you are using the exact legal name and tax identification number as registered with the Texas Secretary of State and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The TCEQ may grant a temporary waiver from the electronic reporting rule in limited cases. If you are unable to report electronically, you can submit a Request for Electronic Reporting Waiver form (TCEQ-20754). A separate waiver form is required for each permit and may be obtained by contacting the Stormwater Processing Center at 512-239-3700.
If you have further questions, please call the Small Business and Local Government Assistance hotline at 800-447-2827.
Rebates Available to Help Pennsylvanians Drive Cleaner Cars
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is offering rebates up to $2,000 for Pennsylvania residents who purchase alternative fuel vehicles. Rebates are available depending on the type of vehicle purchased. Eligible vehicles are plug-in hybrid, plug-in electric, natural gas, propane, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
“Since the program’s inception, DEP has awarded more than 3,500 rebates to Pennsylvania residents who made the switch to alternative fuel vehicles,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Switching to an alternative fuel vehicle can save on fuel costs for the owners, and improve air quality in Pennsylvania.”
To be eligible for a rebate, a new alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) must have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $60,000 or less and must have an odometer reading of less than 500 miles. One-time preowned AFVs with 75,000 miles or less and a true market value of $50,000 or less are also eligible for a $750 rebate. Leased vehicles are also now eligible for rebates, a change that allows additional flexibility for residents.
An additional rebate of $500 for pre-owned vehicles is available to residents with household income below 200 percent of the federal income poverty level. 
Rebates will be awarded in the order that the request forms and required documentation are received and approved, not the date a vehicle was purchased. Consumers may submit applications up to six months after the date of purchase. Consumers should be aware that funds may be depleted before their rebate application can be processed. 
Flexible fuel, non-plug-in hybrid and biodiesel vehicles are not eligible. Businesses are not eligible to receive rebates through this program. Rebates issued as a part of this program are taxable income and will result in the issuance of a 1099 form for the taxable year in which the rebate was received.
For program guidelines, application instructions, and an up-to-date listing of rebate availability, visit the Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants web page:
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