Two New ‘Green Chemistry’ Laws Focus on the Most Dangerous Substances

October 06, 2008

On September 30, California launched the most comprehensive program of any state to regulate chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other deadly effects on human health.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed two broad laws that shift the state away from a scattershot approach in which bills targeting individual chemicals and products have passed or failed depending on the intensity of the lobbying and media attention.

California lawmakers have passed limited bills, such as bans on lead in jewelry and mercury in thermometers. Now the state will be able to regulate toxics in any consumer product. Several substances likely to be targeted by state regulators include: Phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), Lead, Bisphenol A, Arsenic, and Mercury.

State regulators are to inventory the most dangerous, widespread chemicals first and control them at the manufacturing stage, before they are handled in workplaces, incorporated into products, or allowed to escape into air and water. It is expected that approximately 80,000 chemicals now in circulation will be the focus of this revised effort.

The series of new laws come as public alarm is on the rise over dangerous substances in consumer products. The federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), passed three decades ago, has failed to control an explosion of hazardous materials, according to consumer and environmental groups. It exempted existing chemicals and requires the EPA to prove a chemical is toxic before requesting data from manufacturers.

More than 164 million pounds of chemicals are sold each day in California in consumer and commercial products, a figure that does not include substances used in industrial processes. Until now, state laws have covered only the disposal of chemicals in consumer products, not their manufacture, sale, or labeling.

In the end, the bills were endorsed by diverse groups, including the Sierra Club, the Breast Cancer Fund, DuPont, and the Chemical Industry Council of California.

“Right now, if lunch boxes are found to have lead, there is nothing the state toxics department can do to prevent them from being sold to kids,” Sierra Club California director Bill Magavern said. “With these laws, the state can take action against unsafe products on the front end.”

J.P. Myers, chief scientist and chief executive of Environmental Health Sciences, a Virginia-based nonprofit, called the legislation “the toughest, most comprehensive law in the country.” The Toxic Substances Control Act is “decades out of date and has failed repeatedly to allow regulators to intervene in the face of new scientific evidence,” he added.

Among states, according to Myers, Washington has passed several chemical-specific laws, but only Maine has recently passed broad legislation, restricting substances of “high concern” for children’s health.

First U.S. Auction of CO2 Allowances Brings in $38.5 Million


The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) successfully conducted the first-in-the-nation auction of carbon-dioxide emission allowances on September 25. More than $38.5 million was raised from the sale of 12.5 million allowances to bidders from the energy, financial, and environmental sectors. The allowances were sold at a clearing price of $3.07, with demand exceeding the offerings by more than four times the available amount. Six of the ten RGGI states offered allowances for sale in the first auction. Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont will invest the proceeds from the auction in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and other programs that benefit energy consumers. The allowances can be used for compliance in any of the ten states participating in RGGI, including the four states—Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York—that did not offer allowances in this first auction.

RGGI aims to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade program. Under the initiative, the ten participating states will stabilize carbon-dioxide emissions from the power sector at capped levels. The states will then reduce the cap 10% by 2018, with 2.5% decreases each year between 2015 and 2018. Auctioning the allowances allows the states to invest the revenues in programs that reduce energy demand and the use of fossil fuels. The next auction will be held in December of this year, and all ten states are expected to offer allowances for sale in the first 2009 auction and in quarterly auctions thereafter. 

EPA Releases Its 2008 Report on the Environment

EPA has released its “2008 Report on the Environment: Highlights of National Trends,” a new and important resource to better understand trends in the nation’s health and environment. The new report is intended for a general audience and summarizes highlights of the “EPA’s 2008 Report on the Environment,” which was released in May, and provided more scientific and technical information. Together, the two reports present EPA’s strategic planning process with the best available scientific information. 

EPA Hopes Millions Will Join the Campaign to “Change the World, Start with Energy Star”

October 1 was the Fourth Annual Energy Star “Change a Light Day,” and more than 1.8 million Americans have pledged to change at least one light at home to an Energy Star qualified light. These pledges are estimated to save $220 million in energy bills and prevent the release of more than 3 billion pounds of greenhouse gases. Lighting is one of the easiest things we can change in our homes and is the first step in the new pledge to “Change the World, Start with Energy Star.” EPA is challenging Americans to take the newly expanded pledge to make saving energy a bigger part of their lives.

“More and more Americans are seeing the light—that protecting the environment, while saving money, is as easy as changing a bulb,” EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said. “Whether replacing old appliances with Energy Star-qualified ones or installing programmable thermostats, together we are reducing America’s energy use and changing the world.”

EPA commends those small and large businesses, K-12 schools and universities, religious congregations, military bases, and state and regional utilities that went beyond the call of last year’s campaign. They played an integral role by promoting energy efficiency, gathering individual pledges, and educating their communities about ways to fight climate change.

Building on the success of last year’s campaign, the new Energy Star pledge has advice on other ways to save at home and at work. Pledge to change one light in your home to a more energy efficient one, seal and insulate your home, power-down computers when they’re not in use, program your thermostat to save energy when no one is home, and choose Energy Star qualified products. If every American household took the pledge, we would save more than 110 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and $18 billion in annual energy costs, while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 18 million cars annually.

Energy Star was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 50 different kinds of products as well as buildings and new homes. Products that have earned the Energy Star prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the government. In 2007 alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved $16 billion on their energy bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million vehicles.

Post Office Kicks Off Year-Long Conservation Campaign

Turn off lights. Close doors. Adjust thermostats. Report HVAC problems. Turn off unused equipment. Become personally responsible for conservation. Simple steps that, taken collectively among the 685,000 employees at the U.S. Postal Service and throughout its 34,000 facilities, will have a dramatic impact on the environment.

That was the message from Postmaster General John Potter, launching a year-long campaign to increase awareness and create results for energy conservation. Potter called on employees, suppliers, and partners in the mailing industry to increase efforts to “go green.” His statements came during a special “unplugged” event at Postal Service corporate headquarters, recognizing October as National Energy Awareness Month.

The Postal Service has a stated goal of reducing energy use 30% by 2015, a further demonstration of the organization’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Scheduled capital investments will be made annually in energy conservation measures, primarily for lighting and HVAC upgrades.

The Postmaster General hosted a special “unplugged” event that included acoustic performances by several musicians, provided demonstrations of photovoltaic equipment used throughout the Postal Service, showed off some alternative-fuel vehicles, including the T3, a three-wheeled vehicle that runs on electricity being tested as a possible replacement for traditional fuel delivery vehicles in Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona.

A national energy management plan is being reviewed by Postal Service leadership, identifying goals and standards for energy reduction and consumption for facility energy management, fleet management, fuel use, and energy consumption.

Turn Off the Lights During Game Four of the American League Championship Series

Sharp Electronics Corporation, in collaboration with Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. (TBS), has announced the “Lights Out Challenge.” This call-to-action encourages fans watching Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Game Four of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) to conserve energy across America simply by turning out their lights.

“This promotion fits well into our company focus on creating energy creating products, such as solar electricity solutions, and energy-saving products like LCD TV’s,” said Doug Koshima, chairman and CEO, Sharp Electronics Corporation. “We hope that this consumer initiative will not only save a significant amount of energy, but that it will inspire consumers to continue to take steps in their daily lives to increase their environmental conservation.”

This challenge consists of a 45-second commercial that airs during each game of the MLB Division Series and will run through Game Four of the ALCS on October 14. The spot will discuss the importance of conserving energy and end with a consumer call-to-action, asking fans to turn off non-essential lights in their homes when watching Game Four. . On this site, fans will learn more information about the challenge and will be able to register to participate in this nationwide initiative by entering the number of lights they plan to turn off during the game, along with their zip code. Fans can also enter a sweepstakes through the site to win a 46- or 42-inch screen class AQUOS LCD TV. Sharp AQUOS is the official HDTV of Major League Baseball (MLB).

A map of the United States on the micro-site will keep track of which states have turned off the most lights. During the postgame on TBS, announcers will reveal the results of how much energy was saved in leading states and across the United States.

Chevron Launches Campaign to Encourage Efficiency

Chevron Corporation announced the launch of a U.S.-based public campaign called “I Will” in mid-September. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and conservation.

“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most reliable source of new energy that we have,” Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson said. “With demand for energy continuing to rise across the United States and around the world, it’s imperative that we use the resources we already have more efficiently. We hope our new campaign will help raise awareness of the power of energy efficiency and encourage individuals to take actions to use energy more wisely.”

The website introduces a number of new tools including the Energy Generator, an interactive feature that demonstrates how simple individual actions can yield measurable energy savings. Individuals can choose from a variety of easy ways to save energy and learn more about how that saved energy can be applied elsewhere, such as powering a school or hospital.

For example, the Energy Generator will demonstrate how lowering the thermostat in an average U.S. residence by one degree in the winter will save enough energy to light approximately 5,000 hours of reading. If 1,000 people join in and lower their thermostat by one degree, they will save enough energy to power a hospital for 10 days.

“I Will” is part of Chevron’s long-term commitment to efficiency and conservation. It is a continuation of the dialogue on energy issues that began last fall with the company’s “The Power of Human Energy” advertising campaign, which sought to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the major issues surrounding energy.

Chevron began focusing on energy efficiency as part of its long-term strategy in 1992, when it began tracking energy use across its worldwide operations. Since then, the company has improved its internal energy efficiency by 27%.

“Chevron is committed to expanding its energy efficiency and conservation efforts both inside the organization and outside,” Robertson said. “Through our energy efficiency business, Chevron Energy Solutions, we’re helping institutions and businesses become more efficient.”

Since 2000, Chevron Energy Solutions (CES) has developed hundreds of projects involving energy efficiency or renewable power for education, government, and business customers across the United States. Recent projects range in size from $1 million to $100 million.

Delaware Launches Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Recycling

The Delaware Energy Office has announced a statewide initiative that began October 1 to encourage Delaware residents to recycle used, unbroken compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs by taking them to a drop-off location for disposal. The recycling initiative is being kicked off in October—National Energy Awareness month—as a way to engage citizens in an environmentally conscious activity that will help protect the environment.

“Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an extremely energy-efficient and cost effective lighting option,” said Kevin Yingling, Delaware Energy Office program coordinator. “However, CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so recycling them is the best way to maximize safety and protect the environment.”

Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. A CFL bulb contains an average of 4 milligrams of mercury—about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By contrast, an old thermometer contains about 500 milligrams of mercury—the amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFL bulbs. No mercury is released by the bulbs, when handled property and unbroken. However, if broken and discarded in a landfill, CFL bulbs can release mercury into the environment.

Citizens are encouraged to place used, unbroken CFLs in a plastic sandwich bag and bring them to a drop off location. The bulbs will be packaged and transported to a licensed recycling center where the mercury will be reclaimed and the glass and metal will be recycled.

EPA Libraries to Re-Open After Two Years

Under orders from Congress, EPA is again providing access to library services in 15 states and its own headquarters to agency employees and the public. This ends a 30-month campaign by the Bush administration to restrict availability of technical materials within EPA but leaves in its wake scattered and incomplete collections under new political controls of library operations, says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

On September 30, the last day of the federal fiscal year, EPA will re-open its regional libraries in Chicago (serving the Great Lakes region), Dallas (Mid-Southern region), and Kansas City (Mid-Western region) after more than two years. In addition, a long-shuttered library in EPA Headquarters will re-open and include a small portion of holdings from what had been a free-standing Chemical Library, for research on the properties and effects of new chemicals, as a “Special Chemical Collection.”

In its Sept. 24, 2008, Federal Register notice, EPA stated that these re-opened facilities “will be staffed by a professional librarian to provide service to the public and EPA staff via phone, e-mail, or in person…for a minimum of 24 hours over four days per week on a walk-in basis or by appointment.”


San Francisco’s Mayor Announces a Solar Challenge for Businesses

On September 30, San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom challenged San Francisco businesses to go solar by this time next year and to join him as members of the Mayor’s Solar Founders’ Circle. Members of the Solar Founders’ Circle will receive free solar assessments and energy-efficiency audits from the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Mayor’s Office will invite San Francisco’s largest 1,500 businesses to join the Solar Founders’ Circle. Those 1,500 businesses have the potential to install 170 megawatts of solar on their roofs—more than 30 times the amount of solar currently installed in San Francisco, and enough to power 42,000 local households.

Independent experts will visit businesses to assess their building and roof, as well as their energy bills, to help identify how to save energy and money. Solar audits will help businesses confirm their solar potential and estimate how much a solar installation will cost, what incentives are available, how installing solar would affect their electricity and water-heating bills, and the financial costs and savings involved. Energy-efficiency audits will help businesses identify ways to reduce their energy costs and access energy-efficiency rebates.

The program is funded in part by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities initiative, as well as SF Environment’s existing SF Energy Watch Program. Mayor Newsom’s challenge sets a goal for businesses to install five megawatts of solar electricity by September 2009—a target that would double San Francisco’s current solar generation. All businesses that install solar in the next year will be invited to join the Solar Founders’ Circle.

DOE Awards $15 Million in Technical Assistance to Support Businesses’ Adoption of Energy-Efficient Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced on September 26 the first phase of awards, valued at $15 million, for the Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative (CBI). Twenty-one companies—which will include retailers, financial institutions, and commercial real estate firms—will team with two of DOE’s National Laboratories to speed market adoption of current energy-saving technologies and produce real-building design solutions, yielding significant, measurable energy savings in their commercial buildings.

“The Net-Zero Commercial Building Initiative is designed to achieve real, substantive change in commercial buildings,” DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy John Mizroch said. “We must work together with the private sector to shape our practices and define cost-effective solutions. By leveraging our resources with partners in the commercial sector, we can accelerate the adoption of clean, energy-efficient technologies that will help our nation achieve the President’s goal of reducing carbon emissions and improving energy security.”

DOE requested proposals from its National Labs and private-sector companies to achieve cost-effective savings of 50% above the standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers for new commercial building designs, and a savings of 30% for retrofits to existing buildings. Each private-sector company proposed to have their design and facility management team work with DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to design, build, tune, and operate at least one new prototype building and to retrofit an existing building project for 50% and 30% energy savings, respectively. The funding provides access to the labs unique expertise in low-energy building design and retrofit. These real building projects will provide unprecedented insight into private-sector decision processes, business models, and financial drivers for achieving low-energy buildings.

In identifying approaches that can be replicated across the nation, each National Lab will provide technical experts to assist researchers, building professionals, the construction industry, and component and equipment suppliers. These buildings’ experts will use cutting-edge efficiency technologies and on-site renewable energy generation to offset their energy use from the electricity grid. Awards will include continuation decision points and may be partially funded in future fiscal years, depending on project success and annual appropriations.

The awards, which are in the form of technical assistance provided to DOE’s PNNL and NREL, have attracted some of the biggest names in retail, commercial real estate, and financial institutions, including:

  • Retailers: Best Buy, JCPenney, John Deere, Macy’s, SuperValu, Target, Toyota, and Whole Foods Market.

  • Commercial Real Estate Firms: CB Richard Ellis, Forest City Enterprises, Hines, InterContinental Hotels Group, The Opus Group, ProLogis, Regency Centers, Ryan Companies US, Simon Property Group, Tishman Speyer, and The Westfield Group.
  • Financial Institutions: Bank of America and the PNC Financial Services Group.

In 2007, commercial buildings consumed about 19% of U.S. energy and accounted for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. In May, DOE announced the completion of 500 industrial energy-saving assessments to some of the nation’s largest industrial facilities. Those assessments helped companies identify opportunities to save more than an estimated 80 trillion British Thermal Units of natural gas—roughly equivalent to the natural gas used in more than one million American homes—more than $800 million in potential energy savings. 

Xcel Energy Announces Largest Biomass Plant in Midwest

. When complete, the Bay Front Power Plant will be the largest biomass-fueled power plant in the Midwest and one of the largest in the nation. Bay Front’s goal is to reduce carbon dioxide by 22% from 2005 levels from their Midwest generation system by 2020.”

In Wisconsin, Xcel Energy is the No. 1 renewable energy provider and generates 11% of its electricity from a diverse portfolio of renewable sources, such as water, wind, refuse-derived fuel and biomass.

For three consecutive years, the American Wind Energy Association has named Xcel Energy the nation’s No. 1 wind energy provider. With 2,700 MW of wind power currently on its system, Xcel Energy has plans to reach about 7,400 MW of wind by 2020. Xcel Energy also ranks No. 5 in solar energy according to the Solar Electric Power Association.

In 1979, the Bay Front Power Plant became the first investor-owned utility plant in the nation to burn waste wood to generate electricity. Since then, the plant has burned nearly four million tons of waste wood to make power. Bay Front is unique in that it has been retrofitted to be a “flex fuel” plant capable of burning multiple fuels in its three boilers.

Currently, two of the three operating units use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity. This innovative project will convert the existing coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology allowing the plant to use 100% biomass in all three boilers. This is the first time biomass gasification technology will be used to convert a coal-fired boiler at an existing base-load power plant. The project is expected to cost $55 million–$70 million.

In this process, biomass (waste wood) reacts with a controlled amount of oxygen at high temperatures to create a gas mixture called synthetic gas (“syngas”) that is then used as a fuel in the boiler. By converting the biomass to gas, the resulting fuel is much cleaner and has far fewer emissions than coal.

When complete and operational, the project will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 50%, sulfur dioxides by more than 85%, and particulate matter by 90%. In addition, displacing coal with sustainably harvested biomass will also reduce net carbon-dioxide emissions, contributing to the state of Wisconsin’s goals.

Contingent upon final approval by the Xcel Energy Board of Directors, the company expects to file an application with the PSCW later this fall. Following all state regulatory approvals, engineering, design, and construction work is expected to begin in 2010 and the unit could be operational in late 2012.

Perma-Fix Fined More Than $300,000 for Hazardous Waste Handling Violations

EPA announced a $304,500 settlement with Perma-Fix Northwest Richland (Perma-Fix), a waste treatment facility, for failure to properly manage hazardous waste and PCB waste at its facility in Richland, Wash.. Perma-Fix, which acquired the facility on June 13, 2007, has cooperated with EPA to improve its waste management procedures and come into compliance.

On March 6, 2007, EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted an inspection of the facility, located in Richland, Wash., which was at that time owned and operated by Pacific EcoSolutions, Inc. (PEcoS). On June 14, 2007, EPA issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) and a notice that the facility was unacceptable for receipt of CERCLA remedial waste, citing violations of the permit and Washington dangerous waste regulations. The findings that were of greatest concern included:

  • PEcoS’s prolonged storage of dangerous waste and PCB waste
  • Failure to manage mixed-Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulated PCB waste properly in accordance with its permit
  • Failure to properly manage dangerous waste generated during treatment of low-level waste
  • Failure to determine if a generated solid waste is a dangerous waste
  • Failure to determine whether hazardous waste must be treated to meet Land Disposal Restrictions (LDRs)
  • Disposal of dangerous waste at an unpermitted facility
  • Transporting a dangerous waste without a manifest

Perma-Fix worked promptly with the Agency to correct the violations and received notification of EPA’s determination that the facility remained acceptable for the receipt of CERCLA off-site wastes.

According to Mike Bussell, EPA’s director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, the purpose of EPA’s waste management program is to manage hazardous wastes from cradle to grave and ensure that the waste is handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

“It is critical that facilities like Perma-Fix that handle hazardous waste and PCB waste, manage it properly or face penalties,” Bussell said. “Properly managing hazardous waste and PCB waste is absolutely critical to protecting both workers and the surrounding community and environment.”

Jackson Laboratory Faces Fine for Hazardous Waste Violations and EPCRA Violations

The Jackson Laboratory, Inc., of Bar Harbor, Maine, faces a possible EPA fine for violations of state and federal hazardous waste regulations, as well as for violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act ().

An EPA inspection in November 2006 revealed that Jackson Laboratory had improperly stored potentially explosive peroxide-forming chemicals and wastes in three of its labs. Furthermore, the laboratory violated regulations that require annual hazardous waste training to be conducted for employees with hazardous waste management responsibilities.

In EPA’s administrative order that proposes a penalty of $213,670, EPA also alleges that the laboratory used members of its own Environmental Health & Safety staff to provide “in-house” hazardous waste training to its other employees, but that the staff members providing the training were never properly trained themselves.

Finally, the EPA complaint alleges that Jackson Laboratory also failed to notify the local fire department, emergency planning committee and state emergency response commission that reportable quantities of hazardous chemicals were stored at its facility. This information is used by local, state, and federal officials when responding to specific emergencies and when drafting comprehensive emergency response plans.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued Notices of Violation to the Laboratory for hazardous waste violations in 2003 and 2005. A number of the violations cited in the EPA action are cited as repeated instances of the violations cited by the state.

EPA Settles Hazardous Waste Violations With Sartomer Company

EPA and Sartomer Company, Inc., have settled RCRA hazardous waste violations at the company’s facility in West Chester, Pa.

Following a May 2007 inspection by EPA, the following violations were identified:

  • Operating a hazardous waste storage facility without a permit
  • Failing to comply with hazardous waste container storage requirements, new tank system design/installation, and inspection requirements
  • Failing to comply with air emission standards equipment marking and monitoring requirements

The company will pay a $108,000 civil penalty. 

University of Kansas to Pay $39,431 Civil Penalty and Launch Project to Resolve Hazardous Waste Violations

The University of Kansas (KU) will pay a $39,431 civil penalty and spend at least $41,585 in additional funds on training and documentation improvements to settle allegations related to improper handling of hazardous wastes on its Lawrence campus, under a legal agreement with EPA Region 7.

In December 2007, EPA staff conducted a compliance evaluation inspection of KU’s facilities, including its Hazardous Waste Storage Building and various laboratories in Burt, Malott, and McCullom halls. As a result of the inspection, KU was cited for multiple RCRA violations and Kansas hazardous waste regulations, for failing to properly label, document, handle, and store hazardous wastes at those locations.

According to a consent agreement and final order lodged, those violations included:

  • Failure to conduct a proper hazardous waste determination on any of eight solid waste streams that it was generating, including Collodion, n-Butyllithium, 50% methanol solution, casting resin, two-part coating, and three unknown hazardous wastes
  • Failure to meet regulatory requirements as a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, including the proper marking and closing of collection containers, and for improperly treating hazardous waste by allowing solvents and solvent-soaked rags to evaporate in an equipment repair and fabrication room prior to disposal as solid waste

Besides paying a $39,431 civil penalty to the United States, the consent agreement with EPA Region 7 requires KU to implement a Laboratory Waste Stream Identification and Waste Minimization/Pollution Prevention Assessment Project.

The project, which is expected to cost at least $41,585 and must be completed within two years, will involve collecting data and making evaluations of 301 laboratories in KU’s Chemistry, Biology, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Pharmacology and Toxicology departments, and at its Museum of Natural History. Information gathered by the project will be used to better identify waste streams and pollution prevention and waste minimization opportunities on campus.

The project also requires KU to conduct additional training for personnel in each of the affected departments, to provide education and information about waste minimization, pollution prevention and waste stream handling.

City of Anchorage Fined $40,000 for Hazardous Waste Violations

MOA has fully cooperated with EPA to address all allegations.

An EPA inspection of the MOA’s maintenance facility on July 26, 2006, found the following alleged violations of federal RCRA requirements:

  • Failure to properly treat hazardous wastes
  • Failure to properly label used oil containers

According to Mike Bussell, EPA’s director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, the purpose of EPA’s RCRA program is to manage hazardous wastes from cradle to grave to ensure that the waste is handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

“Properly managing hazardous waste is absolutely critical to protecting both workers and the surrounding community and environment,” Bussell said. “Cities like Anchorage handling these wastes must comply with the law or face penalties.”

Hydranautics Fined for Not Following Hazardous Waste Requirements That Protect Employees and the Community

EPA recently fined Vista, Calif.-based Hydranautics $10,509 for violating RCRA hazardous waste requirements.

During summer 2007 inspections, EPA investigators found that Hydranautics, an industrial membrane production facility, had numerous hazardous waste violations, including:

  • Storage of hazardous waste without a permit
  • Failure to comply with the requirements of a hazardous waste contingency plan
  • Failure to meet universal waste requirements
  • Failure to provide appropriate aisle space required for storing hazardous waste

Hydranautics has since rectified the violations. The EPA’s hazardous waste rules require facilities to properly store, label, and seal hazardous waste containers. 

Merit Energy and Shell Fined for Clean Air Act Violations

EPA has announced an agreement with Merit Energy Co. LLC and Shell Exploration & Production Co. on alleged Clean Air Act violations at a natural gas processing facility in Manistee, Mich. Merit is the present owner and Shell is the former owner of the plant.

The agreement resolves federal allegations that the companies continued to operate the Manistee facility after Shell made modifications that allowed processing of larger volumes of natural gas without installing required controls to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions. The companies are also alleged to have violated their state operating permit and state regulations.

Merit expects to achieve compliance by injecting acid gas (a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide) into the ground in depleted natural gas fields, resulting in zero sulfur-dioxide emissions at a cost of more than $1 million. At current production levels, this will reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions by 170 tons per year and carbon-dioxide emissions by nearly 3,800 tons per year. Merit and Shell will also pay a $500,000 penalty, and Merit will perform an environmental project valued at $1 million.

For its environmental project, Merit will replace three natural gas compressor engines with electric compressor drives at three of its other facilities in Michigan. The project is expected to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by 179 tons per year as well as emissions of several other pollutants by smaller amounts.

“Controls required by this agreement will cut sulfur-dioxide emissions from the facility to zero and make a significant contribution to cleaner air for the Manistee area,” said Cheryl Newton, acting director of the EPA Region 5 Air and Radiation Division. “In addition, the environmental project will reduce smog-forming nitrogen-oxide emissions in other parts of Michigan.”

This is the first Clean Air Act enforcement case that specifies the use of an acid gas injection system, which achieves 100% emission control, better than standard end-of-pipe controls. The technology has been used before in other natural gas processing plants but has never been required in an enforcement action.

The proposed consent decree was lodged by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. 

Dow Chemical Co. Faces Fines for CAA Violations in Connecticut

The Dow Chemical Company, which operates a chemical manufacturing facility in Gales Ferry, Conn., faces an EPA penalty for violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

A recent complaint filed by EPA alleges violations of numerous provisions of Dow’s clean air operating permit (Title V permit), the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, as well as the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Regulations. Dow may be subject to fines of up to $330,112 for the violations.

Specifically, Dow failed to keep records of required equipment inspections and monitoring results including records of thermal oxidizer temperatures. Dow also failed to repair leaking valves. These violations may have resulted in excess emissions of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. Finally, Dow failed to conduct and document leak repair verification tests on its refrigeration equipment. Dow has since corrected the violations.

Glass Manufacturer to Spend More Than $6 Million to Resolve CAA Violations

The nation’s second largest glass container manufacturer, Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., is facing a $139,534 fine from the EPA. The settlement resolves alleged federal Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at Saint-Gobain’s wine bottle manufacturing facility in Madera, Calif.

In 2005, Saint-Gobain settled with the EPA for $929,000 following CAA violations and agreed to install $6 million of pollution controls and to complete a $1.2 million environmental project aimed at reducing emissions.

This enforcement action arose from a routine EPA compliance inspection where inspectors discovered violations of monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.

When glass is manufactured, the process results in emissions of air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. Particle pollution is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. It’s made up of a number of components, including acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.

The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. The EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

The Saint-Gobain facility is located in the San Joaquin Valley, an area that does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone or fine particle pollution.

EPA Cites Wisconsin Veneer and Plywood for CAA Violations

EPA Region 5 has filed an administrative complaint against Wisconsin Veneer & Plywood Inc. (WV&P) for alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at the company’s wood veneer, plywood, and lumber manufacturing plant in Mattoon, Wis. EPA has proposed a $96,041 penalty.

EPA alleges WV&P failed to comply with certain requirements of its state operating permit for its wood-fired boiler that emits air pollutants, including particulate matter (smoke, dust, ash) into the atmosphere.

WV&P has 30 days from receipt of the complaint to file an answer and request a hearing. It may request an informal conference with EPA at any time to discuss resolving the allegations.

EPA Issues Amended Citation to BP for CAA Violations

EPA Region 5 has issued an amended notice and finding of violation to the BP Products North America for alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at the company’s petroleum refinery in Whiting, Ind. The action amends a notice and finding of violation issued to the BP Whiting refinery in November 2007, alleging BP violated the CAA by failing to get a permit when it modified one of its cracking units in 2005.

EPA now has information suggesting that BP may have begun a project to process Canadian crude oil at the refinery in 2005 without the proper permit. BP received its construction permit for the project from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on May 1, 2008.

These are preliminary findings of violation. BP has 30 days to request a meeting with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.

EPA Fines Dole $32,500 for Failing to Submit TRI Reports Required by EPCRA (SARA Title III)

The Atwater, Calif., Dole facility failed to submit timely toxic chemical release inventory forms for ammonia used at the facility during 2004 and 2005.

“These laws help communities respond to chemical accidents,” said Nathan Lau, associate director for the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division in the Pacific Southwest region. “Fire departments and other local agencies need all the information required by federal law so they can be prepared for emergencies.”

This enforcement stems from a self-disclosure that Dole made to the EPA in July 2007, for which the penalty was reduced. Dole has since filed the required forms for ammonia used at the facility during 2004 and 2005.

“When facilities submit late reports, it undermines the purpose of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act, which is to make accurate and reliable toxic release data available to states, the public, and emergency responders,” Lau added. “Enforcement against such facilities is a priority for the Agency.”

$26,000 Penalty for Failing to Notify Response Agencies of Ammonia Release

EPA fined the Nor-Cal Beverage Company, Inc., $26,000 for an ammonia air release that occurred at its Anaheim, Calif., bottling plant.

According to the EPA, in May 2007, the Nor-Cal Beverage Company released more than 800 pounds of ammonia due to equipment failure. The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know-Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) require that a release of this size be reported to the proper authorities, who ensure the appropriate response to spills and releases.

The Nor-Cal Beverage Company did not properly notify the National Response Center and the California Office of Emergency Services, although the company did immediately contact the Anaheim Fire Department, which was a responder to the emergency incident.

The Nor-Cal Beverage Company has since made significant modifications and changed notification procedures to ensure that future accidental releases would be easier to curtail and immediately report.

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

Also in California, EPA fined Super Store Industries $20,280 for failing to immediately notify the proper authorities after an ammonia release at its facility located in Fairfield, Calif.

On Aug. 25, 2007, approximately 242 pounds of anhydrous ammonia leaked into the environment within a 24-hour period. The company notified the California Office of Emergency Services 11 hours later, the Solano County Health Services Division 33 hours later, and the National Response Center 93 days later.

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

"Companies put first responders and others at risk when they don’t immediately report toxic chemical releases,” said Dan Meer, the EPA’s Superfund associate director for the Pacific Southwest region. “This information needs to be provided quickly so that authorities can take the proper precautions in responding to an emergency.”

An equipment failure in a refrigeration unit allowed the release of anhydrous ammonia. The company has since made modifications at the facility and changed notification procedures to ensure that any future accidental releases would be easier to curtail and immediately reported.

Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia can cause severe burns on the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. Breathing low levels of ammonia can cause coughing, as well as nose and throat irritation. Ammonia also plays a role in the formation of particulate air pollution, which has been linked to numerous health problems, including chronic bronchitis and lung disease.

EPA Seeks Nearly $1 Million From “99 Cents Only” Stores for Pesticide Violations

EPA has filed a complaint against 99 Cents Only Stores for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered and misbranded pesticides in multiple stores operated by the company, a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The EPA is seeking $969,930 in civil penalties from 99 Cents Only Stores for selling two unregistered pesticides, “Bref Limpieza y Desinfeccion Total” and “Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner,” and a misbranded pesticide, “PIC Boric Acid Roach Killer II.”

Bref Limpieza y Desinfeccion Total was imported from Mexico and made claims in Spanish that it disinfects or sanitizes surfaces. Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner claimed that it “inhibits mold, fungus, and bacteria, including E coli.” Products that make surface disinfection or sanitizer claims are considered pesticides and must be registered under federal law. The third product, PIC Boric Acid Roach Killer II, had labels on 11 containers that were either inside out or upside down, making them difficult to read.

“No matter what price consumers pay for products like these, the products must be registered with the EPA and labeled correctly so consumers can use them properly,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office. “All pesticides distributors—discounters and high-end retailers alike—must comply with the law. This company’s apparent disregard for state and federal law in its business practices has led to this enforcement action.”

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Nevada Department of Agriculture discovered the violations during multiple inspections from 2004 to 2008.

FIFRA regulates the sale, distribution, and use of pesticides within the United States. Before selling or distributing a pesticide in the United States, companies must register the pesticide with the EPA. Each producer, seller, and distributor is required by federal law to ensure that the registered pesticide is labeled according to agency requirements.

EPA Cites Vector Tobacco for Pesticide Misuse and Alleged Worker Safety Issues

EPA recently fined Vector Tobacco Inc. $65,040 for allegedly misusing six pesticides and failing to comply with federal pesticide worker safety laws. The company allegedly misused the pesticides Terramaster 4EC, Nemacur 3, Lorsban 4E, Prowl 3.3EC, Devrinol 50DF, and Ridomil Gold EC during their application at its agricultural research facility in Kekaha, Kauai, in 2005 and 2006. On 93 occasions, Vector Tobacco failed to follow label directions intended to protect workers from exposure to pesticides, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“Employers of agricultural workers must ensure their employees are provided with information and protections that minimize the risk of potential exposure to pesticides,” said Katherine Taylor, Associate Director of the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “Failure to provide these necessary safeguards is considered a serious violation.”

During the pesticide applications in 2005 and 2006, Vector Tobacco failed to provide its workers and pesticide handlers with required protective equipment, pesticide information, decontamination supplies, safety training, and notification that pesticides had been applied. These safeguards are required by the federal Worker Protection Standard, which aims to reduce the risk of pesticide injuries to agricultural workers.

Vector Tobacco also failed to prevent workers from entering areas where pesticides had recently been applied, and subsequently denied them prompt transportation to a medical facility after these workers reported adverse health effects due to the pesticide exposure.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture discovered the violations during inspections performed in March and June of 2006. Worker complaints triggered the initial investigation. Since the inspections, Vector Tobacco has shut down the Kekaha facility.

Before selling or distributing any pesticide in the United States, companies must register the pesticide with the EPA and include on the pesticide labeling directions for use and other information necessary to protect human health and the environment. Federal law requires that agricultural employers comply with these labeling directions during pesticide applications to protect their workers from occupational exposure.

U.S. Steel Facility in Minnesota Penalized $119,544 for Alleged Air and Water Quality Violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the U.S. Steel Corporation reached an agreement that resolved the company's alleged past failure to comply with state air and water quality permits at its Minntac facility in Mountain Iron, Minn. As a result, the company has agreed to pay a $119,544 civil penalty and submit air and water quality equipment compliance plans.

The Mountain Iron facility processes mined iron ore into taconite pellets. After crushing the ore, the resulting waste rock and water are discharged into the company's on-site tailings basin.

U.S. Steel-Minntac's state air quality permit requires daily observations and recordings of the facility's air pollution control equipment operation. The permit also requires the company to correct problems when emissions exceed state limits. Between late 2006 and late 2007, the company failed to maintain required monitoring records or take appropriate actions when dust levels exceeded air quality standards.

The company's state water quality permit requires proper operation and maintenance of its wastewater treatment system. The system treats water used to remove pollutants from facility smokestack emissions and this water is discharged into the tailings basin. The company's wastewater treatment monitoring records from 2006 through 2008 showed that the system was not meeting pollutant-removal requirements. As a result of this agreement, U.S. Steel-Minntac representatives will evaluate the wastewater treatment system and take whatever actions are needed to ensure the facility stays within the terms spelled out in its permit.

A stipulation agreement such as this is one of the tools used to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.


Maryland Pledges Its Highways, Airport, and Port Will Be Green

Maryland transportation agencies are kicking it up a notch as they signed an agreement on October 1 to have 168 of their transportation facilities, including the airport, highways, and port in the state, undergo thorough environmental checks. Under the U.S. EPA agreement, the state agencies will conduct their own environmental assessments and disclose violations they may find.

The six agencies that signed the agreement are the Maryland: State Highway Administration, Port Administration, Aviation Administration, Motor Vehicle Administration, Transportation Authority, and the Secretary’s Office in the Department of Transportation.

“This agreement solidifies Maryland’s approach for optimizing its resources so that all its transportation facilities state-wide achieve full environmental compliance,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional administrator. “Companies, manufacturers, and other facilities have significantly improved their environmental management thanks to these self-audit agreements. We’re pleased that Maryland is the first state to sign on to this approach.”

Maryland’s transportation agencies will assess their compliance with seven federal environmental statutes, with the obligation of identifying problems and disclosing violations to EPA. The agencies can train their own staff to perform the audits or work with third-party professional auditors whose credentials must be verified by EPA. The agencies must correct all violations.

Since establishing the self-audit policy in 2000, EPA has helped small and large companies, college campuses, and hospitals improve their environmental compliance through self-policing. By ‘coming clean’ about violations and correcting them, companies have paid reduced penalties to EPA. In addition, the audit policy allows new owners of recently acquired facilities to disclose environmental problems and get a clean start at fixing them.

18 Agencies Gather in Seattle to Accept EPA’s “Federal Green Challenge”

Senior executives from 18 Pacific Northwest federal agencies gathered at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture on October 1 to address an ambitious goal. Their plan is to reduce the federal government’s “carbon footprint” in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest by approximately 9 million pounds by next year (roughly equivalent to 450,000 gallons of gasoline saved). The program is expected to save approximately $1.8 million.

Sponsored by the U.S. EPA, this gathering will provide a venue for leaders to “talk shop” and share strategies to meet their reduction goals. To meet their own challenge locally, the EPA regional office has conducted an energy, water, transportation, and waste management inventory and is challenging other federal agencies in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to do the same.

According to Elin Miller, EPA’s regional administrator in Seattle, Wash,, this symposium has been designed for partners to meet and explore new ways to collaborate and accomplish measurable savings.

“The federal government is the country’s largest energy consumer and purchaser,” Miller said. “We believe that the Federal Green Challenge will help agencies, offices, and military bases reduce energy consumption, cut greenhouse gases, and save taxpayer dollars.”

EPA Seeks Comment on Decision Not to Regulate Perchlorate in Drinking Water

. Therefore, based on the Safe Water Drinking Act criteria, the agency determined there is not a "meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction" through a national drinking water regulation.

The agency is seeking comment on its preliminary determination not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water at a national level. EPA will make a final determination for perchlorate after considering information provided in the 30-day public comment period.

While fewer than 1% of the drinking water sources have perchlorate levels above the health reference level, EPA is committed to working with states and localities to ensure public health is protected. States have the right to establish and enforce drinking water standards and EPA encourages state-specific situations to be addressed at the local level. To assist states with their local response, EPA intends to issue a health advisory at the time it issues its final regulatory determination for perchlorate.

A regulatory determination is a formal decision by EPA as to whether it should initiate development of a national primary drinking water regulation for a specific contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA has drinking water regulations for more than 90 contaminants. Every five years, EPA develops a Contaminant Candidate List of contaminants to consider for regulation and then makes regulatory determinations on some of the contaminants based on scientific information on health effects, occurrence in drinking water, and the opportunity for risk reduction.

A health advisory provides technical guidance to federal, state, and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methods, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. Health advisories also contain guidance values that are concentrations of a contaminant in drinking water that are likely to be without adverse health effects.

Texas Accepting Nominations for Statewide Environmental Excellence Awards

Nominations are now being accepted through October 24 for the 2009 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards, the state’s highest en