Environmental Law & Climate Change Law Newsletter
October 18, 2010, Volume 2, Number 31
The following is a summary review of articles from all over the nation concerning environmental law settlements, decisions, regulatory actions and lawsuits filed during the past week. These were all first posted, in abbreviated form, on http://twitter.com/smtaber. This Newsletter also appears as a post on our website Taber Law Group every Monday. Archives can be found there and on our blog, The Environmental Law and Climate Change Law Blog. For more information about the Taber Law Group, please visit our website at taberlaw.com.
ConocoPhillips Company and Sasol North America Agree to Reimburse Costs for Calcasieu Estuary, Bayou Verdine Cleanup. – EPA News Release, October 13, 2010
The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Attorney’s Office announced today, the settlement of claims against ConocoPhillips Company and Sasol North America Inc. to resolve their liability to EPA under CERCLA for contamination in the Calcasieu Estuary of Louisiana. The Justice Department also announced a settlement of claims for natural resource damages against ConocoPhillips Company and Sasol North America Inc. related to contamination in the Estuary. Under the terms of a consent decree lodged in the federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana together with a filed complaint, ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America will reimburse the EPA Superfund more than $4.5 million and will complete a removal action valued at about $10 million to clean up Bayou Verdine within the Calcasieu Estuary. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is also a plaintiff in the case and party to the settlement.
Goodman Oil agrees to pay over $171,000 for storage tank violations at gas stations across Idaho. – EPA Press Release, October 14, 2010
Goodman Oil Company and Goodman Oil Company of Lewiston will pay a $171,091 fine for a series of fuel storage tank violations at former gas stations across Idaho under a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlement, approved by the federal court in Boise, Idaho on October 1, covers a range of violations beginning as early as 1991 and ending in 2009. The companies have agreed to pay the penalty from the sale of their properties in Idaho and Oregon. The violations occurred at former gas stations owned by the Goodman Oil companies in Boise, Homedale, Nampa, Weiser and Lewiston, Idaho. EPA inspectors identified fuel storage tanks at the stations that were not compliant with EPA requirements. They risked contaminating groundwater, which is a primary source of drinking water for much of Idaho. “Poorly maintained fuel storage tanks and piping can endanger an area’s groundwater supply, so gas station owners must keep storage systems in good shape,” said Peter Contreras, manager of the Ground Water Unit at the EPA in Seattle. “Thousands of people in Idaho depend on groundwater, so we expect facilities to run their businesses in a way that protects nearby residents.”
Univ. of Maine Ordered to Restore Wetlands at Orono Campus. – EPA Press Release, October 12, 2010
EPA has ordered the University of Maine to restore wetlands on its campus in Orono Maine. The wetlands were filled between 1984 and 2009 during the construction of buildings, roads, and parking areas; installation of culverts; expansion of a landfill; and disposal of snow and associated debris. The University violated the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) by failing to obtain the required federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before filling the wetlands. Before being filled, the wetlands served valuable functions such as groundwater recharge, pollutant retention, and wildlife habitat. EPA’s order requires removal of approximately 2 acres of a landfill and snow dump and restoration of the underlying wetland. It also requires restoration of approximately one acre of forested wetland that the University had converted to a livestock paddock. To compensate for some fill that cannot be removed, the University will restore and enhance 3.66 acres of a currently farmed area that includes wetlands and an upland buffer.
A ski resort in Vermont has been ordered to restore wetlands and streams that were harmed when the resort discharged dredged and fill material into the waters during construction of its golf course in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month ordered Jay Peak Resort, Inc. in Jay, Vt. to repair the damage done between 2004 and 2006 when it was building its golf course and discharged material without a required permit. According to EPA,the construction company working for Jay Peak Resort placed dirt, sand and rocks into numerous wetlands and streams, affecting a total of 2.15 acres. This case was brought to the attention of EPA by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the spring of 2008. Since then, the Corps and EPA have worked together in pursuing this case. The affected streams on the site flow into Jay Branch Brook, which flows into the Missisiquoi River, and then into Lake Champlain.
A federal jury in Utica, N.Y. has found Certified Environmental Services Inc. (CES); two of its managers, Nicole Copeland and Elisa Dunn; and one of its employees, Sandy Allen, guilty of conspiring to aid and abet Clean Air Act violations, commit mail fraud, and defraud the United States, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. The defendants were also convicted of substantive Clean Air Act violations and mail fraud counts. CES and Elisa Dunn were also convicted of making false statements to federal law enforcement. As alleged in the indictment, CES (an asbestos air monitoring company and accredited laboratory), and several of its senior employees, together with Aapex Environmental and Paragon Environmental (asbestos removal companies, having already pled guilty) conspired over the course of nearly a decade to falsify lab results used to prove that asbestos removal was done properly. In numerous instances, asbestos removal companies represented that homes, schools and other buildings were free of asbestos contamination when asbestos debris remained behind. Owners of local homes and buildings were unaware that asbestos had been left behind from sloppy abatement work because air quality reports were falsified by CES and its supervisors and employees. Due to the false lab reports, people that lived or worked in these buildings were exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of developing cancer or other asbestos-related diseases. EPA investigators have notified affected building owners of the asbestos problem so proper clean up can be conducted.
A Massachusetts company that produces and imports pesticides and pesticide devices faces proposed penalties for importing these products for distribution or sale without submitting the required forms to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in violation of federal environmental law. In a complaint filed recently, EPA’s New England office alleges that Millipore Corp. of Billerica imported unregistered pesticides (chlorine tablets) for distribution or sale on numerous occasions without submitting the Notice of Arrival forms required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, known as FIFRA. According to the complaint, Millipore also imported pesticide devices (water purification devices) on numerous occasions without submitting the required Notice of Arrival forms. EPA’s complaint alleges that these FIFRA violations occurred from Sept. 2005 to Oct. 2008 and seeks a penalty of up to $6,500 for each violation. Under FIFRA, all pesticides used and sold in the U.S. are required to undergo a rigorous, science-based review process to ensure that they can be used safely and do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Importers of pesticide products must provide data to EPA regarding pesticides or devices that may be entering the U.S. prior to their import.
LAWSUITS AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS FILED
U.S. Files PCB Cleanup Lawsuit Against 12 Polluters of Wisconsin’s Fox River. – Department of Justice Press Release, October 14, 2010
The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced the filing of a major lawsuit today against 10 companies and two municipalities to require continued environmental cleanup work at Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River and Green Bay Site. The lawsuit also seeks payment of associated government costs and natural resource damages. The total cleanup costs and damages for the Green Bay Site are expected to exceed $1 billion. The Superfund lawsuit, brought jointly by the United States and the State of Wisconsin, targets risks to humans and wildlife posed by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in bottom sediment, banks, and shoreline areas of the Fox River and Green Bay. In addition to the complaint, the United States and the state of Wisconsin filed a proposed settlement with one of the newly-named defendants, Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP. In the proposed settlement, Georgia-Pacific would agree that it is liable, along with other defendants, for performance of all required cleanup work downstream from a line across the Fox River slightly upstream of its paper mill in the city of Green Bay. The company also would pay $7 million to reimburse a portion of the government’s unpaid past and future costs. The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period.
EPA dust regs could threaten much more than barbecues. – Karen McMahan, Carolina Journal, October 12, 2010
Until recently, no one in North Carolina, home to so many tobacco companies, could have imagined a statewide smoking ban in public buildings. And yet it’s possible that federal environmental regulators could target another signature Tar Heel State tradition: the pig pickin’. Several cities in California, Colorado, and other states have banned outdoor grilling — particularly where wood or charcoal is involved — at parks and other public areas and at events including weekend festivals. And if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightens its regulations covering coarse particulate matter in 2011, mobile smokers could be endangered. Outdoor barbecues would not be the main target of the new federal regulations. Instead, the rules seek to limit farm and rural dust, placing the nation’s farmers, ranchers, livestock producers, and miners on notice. Some activists are even suggesting all unpaved roads be paved as a way to curb dust creation.
South Edisto listed as ‘impaired’ due to excess of fecal coliform. – Brian Troutman, The Times and Democrat, October 11, 2010
The South Fork of the Edisto River has been listed as “impaired” because of an excess of fecal coliform found in the water. According to officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, samples from Zig Zag boat landing near Farrell Crossroads in Bamberg and Coleman Bridge Road in Aiken yielded levels of fecal coliform above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water body compliance standards. Excess levels of fecal coliform pose a risk to anyone using the river for recreational purposes. Drinking, swallowing or having the bacteria enter the body through open wounds could cause disease. As a result, DHEC will be conducting a Total Maximum Daily Load study in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. This study will help officials determine the maximum amount of pollution the river can receive while meeting water-quality standards for pollutants of concern. “We initiate the TMDL, then our project managers analyze the watershed, look at all the potential sources and provide a reduction scenario,” said DHEC TMDL Manager Mihir Mehta. While officials agree that it is too early to identify potential sources of the problem, historical data provides a blueprint to the solution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan to clean up contaminated water in San Bernardino County. The target area is Rialto, where groundwater is considered not just un-drinkable, but dangerous. Rialto resident Maria Corral doesn’t have problem watering her lawn, but drinking that water is another matter. “Our water has always been bad here. We always had to buy water bottles,” said Corral. Corral lives less than a mile from a former BF Goodrich site. The area has been designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency because of groundwater contamination. In 1997 the EPA closed several water wells in and around the area after perchlorate was discovered. The toxic chemical has been linked to cancer. “We never drank it,” said Corral. “So they tried to fix it but they never fixed anything.” That’s about to change. The EPA is planning to build an $18-million treatment plant that will purify an estimated 3,200 gallons of water per minute. The water will then be pumped back into aquifers in Rialto, Colton and Fontana.
The Coast Guard has hired a contractor to deal with a creosote leak into the Port Washington Narrows. The Coast Guard says a pipe has been leaking unknown amounts of heavy tarlike creosote into the narrows since at least Aug. 20. That’s when a sheen was first spotted. The Kitsap Sun repots the pipe is below the old Bremerton Gasworks property. The site operated as a coal-gasification plant from the 1930s into the 1950s. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the property for a possible cleanup. The EPA has been working with the Coast Guard on a plan to excavate the pipe. Ballard Diving and Salvage has been hired to work on stopping the leak.
Ag Groups Write EPA on TMDL Proposal, Water Quality Strategy. – US Ag Net, October 18, 2010
Agricultural organizations joined with two sets of comments sent last week to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing deep concerns about the agency’s water regulation strategy. In one letter, the groups responded directly to proposed Total Maximum Daily Load requirements, known as TMDLs, for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which were created as part of a lawsuit settlement between EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The TMDL proposal is concerning to many in the states that could be regulated by it and many in the agricultural community, in part because it could easily become a model for watersheds around the country. The groups requested EPA withdraw the draft TMDL or, barring that, make public the models its scientists relied upon to develop it and allow for a comment period on the modeling formula. They told agency officials that withdrawing the current proposal and working with Chesapeake watershed jurisdictions (six states and the District of Columbia) would allow EPA to ‘correct deficiencies in its modeling’ and reconcile EPA TMDL proposals with existing nutrient management proposals in at least two states, Maryland and Virginia.
EPA details plan to clean site in Rialto. – Josh Dulaney, The Sun, October 12, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released more details about its plans to clean up contaminated water flowing under the city. In what the agency refers to as its Superfund Interim Action Record of Decision, the plan calls for spending between $13 million and $18 million to build a groundwater pump and treatment system to clean up perchlorate at a 160-acre site at Locust Avenue and Casa Grande Drive, north of the 210 Freeway. “We see what we’re doing as part of a regional, comprehensive response to a regional problem that is affecting the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin,” said Wayne Praskins, EPA project manager for the site. The EPA has identified the 160-acre site as the spot where most or all of contaminants like perchlorate and trichloroethylene entered the groundwater, and where testing has identified the highest levels of groundwater contamination. Perchlorate is a rocket- fuel additive that, when ingested, can interfere with the thyroid gland. Trichloroethylene is an industrial cleaning solvent that affects the central nervous system and has been linked with various cancers.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has finalized the steps it will take to clean up the Ellenville Scrap Iron and Metal Superfund site in the Village of Ellenville, N.Y. in Ulster County. EPA will excavate contaminated soil from six different areas at the site, consolidate the soil on the landfill portion of the site and then securely cap the landfill, which will prevent further contamination of the groundwater. Any of the excavated soil or materials that are characterized as hazardous waste will be shipped off-site for proper disposal. EPA will also install a series of additional wells to monitor groundwater around the site to make sure it remains free of contaminants. “After an extensive analysis of the contamination at the Ellenville Scrap Iron and Metal Superfund site, EPA has selected a plan that will result in a thorough and efficient cleanup,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. EPA added the Ellenville Scrap Iron Metal site to the Superfund National Priorities List on October 7, 2002 after hazardous chemicals were found in the soil there. The 24-acre site, which was used for scrap metal operations from the 1950s until the 1990s, is divided into upper and lower portions by a landfill, approximately 40 feet high. Soil samples at the site showed levels of semi-volatile organic compounds and various metals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected a cleanup plan to address contaminated soil at the Standard Chlorine of Delaware Superfund Site in New Castle County, Del. that includes constructing a surface cap over a contaminated area and a soil gas collection and treatment system. The Standard Chlorine of Delaware, Inc. Superfund Site (also known as Metachem) is three miles northwest of Delaware City. It is approximately 65 acres in size, and is west of River Road (Route 9) near the south bank of Red Lion Creek. Metachem, which had been conducting site cleanup since 1987, declared bankruptcy in 2002. This led to EPA becoming the lead agency for the cleanup. After conducting extensive groundwater and soil sampling, EPA considered various cleanup options to address the soil contamination. In July 2009, EPA recommended a cleanup plan that included a surface cap and soil gas treatment system. The plan was made available for public comment, and after reviewing comments, EPA decided to implement the recommended plan.
EPA, in consultation with the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services, has announced the preferred route of access to the Beede Site necessary for the performance of the cleanup. After careful study of seven identified potential access routes, EPA believes that “Access Route D,” with “Access Route A1” as a back-up option, presents the best option for access to the site. The two access routes comply with federal and state laws and regulations, and can be implemented in a way that will minimize impacts to local residential areas and infrastructure, to the extent practicable, such that material can be conveyed to and from the site in the most efficient, cost effective, safe and non-disruptive manner possible during site cleanup activities. EPA recognizes that all access routes present some level of inconvenience or impact to local residents and infrastructure during the estimated 9-to-18 months of trucking. But the 40-acre Beede Site cannot be cleaned up without soil removal. Potential risks to human health and the environment, and to local drinking water wells, cannot be adequately addressed unless contaminated soil is removed. To help inform its decision, EPA consulted with site neighbors, Plaistow Town officials, the NHDES, the NH Department of Transportation, and T.Y. Lin International Consultants (traffic experts hired by EPA), as well as the written evaluation of all possible site access routes provided by the Beede Performing Group, the parties responsible for the cleanup, as part of its court agreement.
As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) RE-Powering America’s Land initiative, the agency has developed a two-year draft management plan to advance the development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land and mining sites. The draft plan describes activities EPA can take to build upon the progress that the initiative has achieved since its launch in September of 2008. EPA started the initiative to determine the feasibility of developing renewable energy production on Superfund, brownfields, and former landfill or mining sites. Superfund sites are the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified by EPA for cleanup due to the risk they pose to human health or the environment. Brownfields are properties at which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence of contaminants. The initiative aims to decrease the amount of green space used for development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide health and economic benefits to local communities, including job creation. During the fall and winter of 2009, EPA met with stakeholders from state and local government, the renewable energy sector, finance, utilities, land owners, parties responsible for cleaning up sites, community organizations and nonprofits to hear feedback on barriers to using contaminated sites for renewable energy and how to overcome those barriers. EPA used the information provided at the stakeholder meetings to develop the draft management plan.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will begin another round of soil sampling on properties that may be contaminated with lead from the former NL Industries lead smelter and battery recycling plant at 16th Street and Cleveland Boulevard in Granite City. The NL Industries-Taracorp site is located approximately two miles east of St. Louis and operated as a secondary lead smelter and refining plant from 1903 until 1983. Lead contamination from the site, including airborne smelter stack emissions and battery chips, was identified in a number of residential areas in Granite City, as well as in neighboring Eagle Park Acres, Madison and Venice. The properties that will be sampled are left over from a cleanup that took place from 1993 to 2000. During the final years of the cleanup, the NL Industries-Taracorp Superfund Site Group – at the direction of EPA and working with Illinois EPA – tested soil in yards at the site. Contaminated soil was excavated, replaced with clean soil and the yards were re-landscaped. During that cleanup, 59 property owners did not allow sampling. Another 25 denied access to remove contaminated soil after the samples tested positive for high lead levels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it is awarding $4 million in assistance to 23 communities, many in under-served and economically disadvantaged areas, to develop area-wide plans for the reuse of brownfields properties. Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response announced the grants today at an event in Cleveland, along with Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plans will integrate site cleanup and reuse into coordinated strategies to lay the foundation for addressing community needs such as economic development, job creation, housing, recreation, and education and health facilities. Brownfields are properties where the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants may complicate the properties’ expansion, redevelopment, or reuse. “This area-wide approach recognizes that revitalization of the communities impacted by multiple brownfield sites or a large individual site – particularly in distressed communities – requires a strategy for area-wide improvement to attract investment to redevelop brownfields properties,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The approach also recognizes the importance of identifying and leveraging additional local, state, and federal investment to implement the plans.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will meet with the public to discuss the investigation and cleanup of pollution around an old zinc smelter about 3 1/2 miles south of Danville. The agency says it’ll hold open house sessions on Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. at Westville High School. EPA officials and state and local representatives will talk one on one to residents about the Hegeler Zinc smelter Superfund site. And an EPA civil investigator will talk to residents who might have leads on those responsible for contamination at the site. The 100-acre site just west of the village of Hegeler was a zinc smelting facility from 1906 until around 1954 and produced large slag piles containing hazardous metals such as lead, arsenic and zinc.
Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted waterway that separates Queens and Brooklyn, was given designation last month that will allow it to be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program. Now a group of elected officials is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to forget the Queens side of the creek. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney says so far, the EPA hasn’t studied the creek’s impact on Queens communities. “In all of their preliminary work, they more or less focused only on Kings County, or Brooklyn,” Maloney said. “We want them to give equal treatment to both sides, not only in their sampling, not only in their cleanup, but in their research.” Maloney is currently running for re-election. The EPA issued a statement today saying that agency does plan to sample water and sediment from Queens tributaries, which include Dutch Kills, Maspeth Creek and East Branch. Newtown Creek has been the site of 150 years of industrial pollution, including a massive underground oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Three of the biggest polluters, oil companies BP, ExxonMobil and Texaco, are expected to pay the lion’s share of the cleanup costs, which are currently estimated to be around $400 million dollars.
EPA emissions cuts trapped in haze. – Robin Bravender, Politico, October 12, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency is on track to begin regulating greenhouse gases for the first time in less than three months, but it could be a messy process. The Obama administration promises a smooth transition as the EPA begins to require cuts in emissions from large industrial sources like power plants and oil refineries, but uncertainties abound as the agency hustles to bring states into line and climate polices remain entangled in federal court cases. “There is concern that EPA is trying to cram this through in too short a time period,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute. Feldman and other industry officials argue that the EPA hasn’t afforded enough time for legal fights over climate rules to play out or for states to understand how they’ll be expected to curb emissions from large industrial sources. As a result, they warn, when climate rules officially kick in Jan. 2, businesses will encounter a patchwork of regulations across states, and construction will grind to a halt.
One near-term alternative to a cap-and-trade bill is a big increase in funds for clean energy research. Another alternative is having the Environmental Protection Agency crack down on greenhouse gas emissions. As Bradford Plumer has written, “back in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the E.P.A. was required to regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act if it found those gases posed a threat to public health and welfare (which, most scientists agree, they do).” Matthew Yglesias adds that “you really can make a fair amount of progress under the E.P.A. path and try to focus legislative attention on efficiency measures and other things that are outside the E.P.A.’s purview but also a good deal less controversial than carbon pricing.” How much progress? I asked that question of people at the World Resources Institute in Washington, who have studied the issue. They looked at existing federal and state regulations and estimated how far they could go toward meeting the Obama administration’s goal of reducing the country’s emissions in 2020 to a level 17 percent below emissions in 2005.
A possible EPA ban on lead fishing tackle. – Rick Elmhorst, CFNews 13, October 17, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency has been asked to ban the use of lead in fishing tackle. Five environmental groups petitioned the EPA for the ban, claiming that lead weights and lures break off and fall to the bottom of lakes and oceans. According to the groups, millions of birds die every year because they wind up eating the lead. Polk County fishing guide Monte Goodman is concerned about the requested ban. He said having to replace lead with other metals would cost a lot of money. “I would have to raise the prices on my guide trips just for that,” said Goodman. Goodman said many fishermen would have to replace the lead with tungsten. That could increase the cost of a $5 lure to nearly $20, according to Goodman.
FEDERAL AND STATE ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION
Safeguarding the Nation’s Drinking Water: EPA and Congressional Actions. – Mary Tiemann, Environmental Legislation, October 11, 2010
The events of September 11, 2001, focused heightened attention on the security status of the nation’s drinking water supplies and the vulnerability of this critical infrastructure sector to attack. Congress since has enacted security requirements for public water systems and has provided funding for vulnerability assessments, emergency planning, and drinking water research. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the lead federal agency for the water sector, has worked with water utilities, state and local governments, and federal agencies to improve the drinking water security. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (P.L. 107- 188) amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to require some 8,400 community water systems to assess vulnerabilities and prepare emergency response plans. It authorized funding for these activities and for emergency grants to states and utilities, and it directed EPA to review methods to prevent, detect, and respond to threats to water safety and infrastructure security. The act did not require water systems to make security upgrades to address potential vulnerabilities. In most years since FY2002, Congress appropriated roughly $5 million annually for EPA to work with states and the water sector to improve the security of drinking water supplies.
The battle over the proposed plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and some of New York’s Congressional members at odds. Nine federal lawmakers have combined on a harshly worded letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, outlining their “grave concerns” about the agency’s plan and warning it could be a “death knell to scores of New York farms.” The letter — signed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; U.S. Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and Michael Arcuri, D-Utica; and five others — highlights steps the state has already taken to clean up its portion of the Bay watershed, which includes parts of New York, five other states, and the District of Columbia. A major portion of the watershed can be found in Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties, and all or portions of 13 other New York counties. The EPA’s proposed plan calls for strict restrictions on phosphorus and nitrogen output from the Susquehanna River, which empties into the Bay, by 2025. Each state would have to reach 60 percent of the EPA’s limits by 2017.
New Tactic in California for Paying Pollution Bill. – Felicity Barringer, The New York Times, October 17, 2010
Officials who have tried and failed to clean the air in California’s smog-filled San Joaquin Valley have seized on a new strategy: getting millions of drivers to shoulder more of the cost. Faced with a fine of at least $29 million for exceeding federal ozone limits, the San Joaquin Valley’s air quality regulators are proposing an annual surcharge of $10 to $24 on registration fees for the region’s 2.7 million cars and trucks beginning next year. A decision is expected when the governing board meets on Thursday. Although the surcharge is not expected to change how much people drive or what cars or trucks they buy, air pollution experts say it is a harbinger of the future. After decades of forcing industry to clean its smokestacks, retool car and truck engines and fine-tune gasoline, regulators are exploring what they can do to force consumers to face up to the pollution they cause. “We, the people, are the ones whom we need to point the finger at,” said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which administers federal and state pollution laws here.
EPA’s impending regs may decrease coal market. – Dustin Bleizeffer, Billings Gazette, October 13, 2010
Natural gas is poised to grab a portion of the electric utility market that for decades has been dominated by Wyoming coal. Driving this shift is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s actions to further restrict a number of industrial air pollutants, and a legal mandate to phase in rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which begin in January. Waiting for a better bill. Utilities say they need a more comprehensive climate and energy bill before they’re prepared to invest in expensive advanced-coal facilities that capture carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that the world’s top scientists blame for global warming. But the effort to pass an energy bill has stalled and isn’t likely to regain momentum if Republicans pick up a large number of congressional seats in the November election. Meanwhile, the EPA continues its steady march toward implementing its own rules, and that means utilities are going to become more reliant on natural gas.
The Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia will be prohibited from disposing its mining waste in streams in the state if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency carries through with its regional office’s recommendation and vetoes the mine’s permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. In a decision released today, the EPA regional office that oversees the implementation of the Clean Water Act in West Virginia recommended that the agency exercise its authority under that Act to prohibit the Spruce No. 1 mine from disposing mining waste into streams. If finalized, it will demonstrate EPA’s commitment to more vigorously oversee the devastating practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia. On March 26, EPA proposed to withdraw or restrict the use of a number of streams as waste dumps associated with the mountaintop removal mine and valley fills at the Spruce No. 1 site. EPA raised concerns about the scale, water quality and wildlife impacts, environmental justice implications, and cumulative impact of the Spruce mine combined with other mining activity in the area. EPA received thousands of public comments and held a hearing in West Virginia, before it issued its recommendation today. The following is a statement from Jon Devine, a senior attorney in the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
After the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator recommended the revocation of Arch Coal’s Spruce surface mine permit in Logan County, residents spoke out. “You loose that many jobs it’s going to effect peoples’ paychecks, it will affect their groceries, it will affect their rent, and they’re option to pay power. Everything they need to to live and work.” retired miner Sidney Dingess said. Other miners agreed, claiming if coal goes, so does cities like Logan. “Mining people, and the cities, will be in bad condition,” Jack Davis said. The permit for the Spruce Fork No. 1 mine employs hundreds of people across Logan County.
Valero, Refiners Reluctant to Sell Higher Ethanol-Blend Gas. – Noah Buhayar, Bloomberg, October 12, 2010
Valero Energy Corp. and other refiners may be unwilling to sell gasoline blended with higher amounts of ethanol, even after the U.S. government allows its use. Valero, the largest U.S. refiner, and Marathon Oil Co., the largest refiner in the Midwest, are concerned selling gasoline with more of the corn-based fuel additive may leave them liable for engine damage, according to company spokesmen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected this week to raise the limit on how much ethanol can be blended with gasoline to 15 percent from the current 10 percent, said Christine Tezak, an analyst for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., a Milwaukee-based asset management fund. Refiners aren’t obligated to blend so-called E15, and use of the fuel may be limited to cars built in 2007 or later. “It’s going to take time before the industry buys into it,” said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York who doesn’t own energy company shares. “They’re going to look at the potential financial impact if E15 causes damage to any automobiles.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday will clear the way for gasoline that is blended with up to 50 percent more ethanol to be used in vehicles made since the 2007 model year, giving a boost to farmers who grow the corn that is used to make most U.S. ethanol, an ethanol industry source told Reuters. The EPA will approve a request from the Growth Energy coalition of ethanol producers to boost the amount of ethanol in a gallon of gasoline to up to 15 percent from the current 10 percent, the source said. EPA is expected to decide in December on whether the fuel, known as E15, can used in cars built from 2001 to 2006. EPA’s approval of higher blends will also help ethanol producers, who say they need to draw down a glut of supply. Federal law requires energy companies to blend 15 billion gallons of corn-based fuel a year into the gasoline supply by 2015, up from 12 billion gallons this year. Ethanol helps stretch U.S. gasoline supplies, which is supposed to make America less dependent on foreign petroleum suppliers. However, E15 gasoline probably would not be available until early next year, assuming the EPA also approves later this year the higher blends for older vehicles.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today waived a limitation on selling fuel that is more than 10 percent ethanol for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. The waiver applies to fuel that contains up to 15 percent ethanol – known as E15 – and only to model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. This represents the first of a number of actions that are needed from federal, state and industry towards commercialization of E15 gasoline blends. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) extensive testing and other available data on E15’s impact on engine durability and emissions. “Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.” A decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after EPA receives the results of additional DOE testing, which is expected to be completed in November. However, no waiver is being granted this year for E15 use in model year 2000 and older cars and light trucks – or in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines – because currently there is not testing data to support such a waiver. Since 1979, up to 10 percent ethanol or E10 has been used for all conventional cars and light trucks, and non-road vehicles.
EPA OKs some use of higher ethanol blend. – Dan Piller, Des Moines Register, October 14, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave its approval Wednesday to a 15 percent blend of ethanol with regular unleaded gasoline, increasing the limit from 10 percent for motor vehicles of the 2007 model year or newer. But don’t expect to see E15 at pumps soon. Ethanol industry officials said they didn’t expect the higher blend to be ready until the first quarter of next year. They also worry about confusion at the pumps as motorists try to figure out which pump to use. Most major gasoline retailers, such as Iowa-based Kum & Go, have said they will wait to determine market demand before going to the expense of installing new pumps and tanks. Deputy EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency would require prominent labeling on pumps so motorists will be able to determine whether they can legally use E15 if it is offered. She said the agency would rule in November or December on allowing E15 to be used in cars from the 2001 model year or newer, which would make more than 55 percent of the U.S. fleet eligible for E15 use. Tom Buis, chief executive of Growth Energy, an ethanol advocacy group that asked for the E15 decision, dismissed the potential problems at the pump, saying “motorists will adjust. Remember, we went through the change from leaded to unleaded gasoline.”
Ethanol: More Is Not Better: Gas Additive Upping the ingredient is good for Iowa, bad for Connecticut. – Hartford Courant, October 15, 2010
The decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to allow 50 percent more ethanol in gasoline — from 10 percent to 15 percent — is good for corn-growing states like Iowa that produce the substance, but may ultimately have a negative impact on boating states like Connecticut. To be sure, the new rule won’t result in changes overnight. It would provide the 15 percent mix of gasoline for cars manufactured in 2007 and later for which the higher mix of ethanol would have little impact. And a host of rules in various states and changes at the gas pumps would have to take place before the gasoline is sold. But there’s already considerable evidence that adding ethanol to gasoline at the lower level of 10 percent is terrible for boat engines, making them hard to start and causing leaky valves and deterioration in engines, fuel tanks and fuel lines. The National Marine Manufacturers Association wanted the EPA to postpone its decision until the impact of higher ethanol blends on marine motors could be completed. And although using corn-derived ethanol in gasoline makes the nation less dependent on foreign oil, so much energy (not to mention pesticide, water and fertilzer) is used to plant the corn, harvest it and process it into the fuel additive that it can hardly be called good for the environment.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Doug Peterson welcomes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement this week of the approval of E15 blend fuel in 2007 and newer vehicles. On March 6, 2009 Growth Energy (www.growthenergy.org) submitted its Green Jobs Waiver to the EPA, seeking a regulatory change to permit an increase in the allowable blend of ethanol in fuel to 15 percent (E15), from the arbitrary limit that currently caps the amount at 10 percent (E10). MFU says the approval for newer vehicles is a good first step, and MFU is confident it will be followed by approval for older model vehicles once the Department of Energy (DOE) completes its testing later this year. “Minnesota has been a leader in biofuels, and this announcement is a step in the right direction to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, creating U.S. jobs and improving our environment” said Doug Peterson, MFU president.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
EPA Administrator signs Memorandum of Understanding with China on Environmental Protection. – EPA Press Release, October 12, 2010
During her first official visit to China, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian signed an agreement that formalizes the partnership between the United States and China on environmental protection. “The United States and China have enjoyed a strong relationship and achieved significant progress in our nearly 30-year partnership on environmental protection. As we celebrate our shared successes, this is a good time for us to also evaluate our collaboration, identify emerging priorities, and sharpen our focus on building a prosperous and healthy future,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “The global environmental community has learned much in the last 30 years, and MEP has many accomplishments worth recognizing. I look forward to enhancing our collaboration and am proud to renew this historic connection today.”
Other Articles on the Same Topic:
EPA: Hope for Progress With China Despite Friction. – Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press, October 14, 2010
China and the U.S. are working together on cutting greenhouse gas emissions despite the deadlock over a broader global agreement on fighting climate change, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday. “My hope is that we will see continued progress on the issues. They are vitally important,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, said in Shanghai following U.N. climate talks in northern China’s Tianjin last week. Modest progress at the Tianjin talks was eclipsed by the acrimonious standoff between China and the U.S. over monitoring and verification of efforts by developing nations to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming. Countries remain at odds over how to split the burden of emission cuts and how to verify them. The U.S. wants China and other developing countries to commit to mandatory, rather than just voluntary goals. Beijing, meanwhile, accuses the U.S. and other wealthy countries of failing to make cuts in carbon dioxide emissions — created in part by burning fossil fuels like oil and coal — commensurate with their massive historical contribution to the problem. China’s 2011-16 five-year-plan, a national economic planning blueprint now being drafted, calls for reducing the amount of energy used per dollar of GDP by 17 percent and for cutting fossil-fuel emissions by about 20 percent from 2010 levels, the newspaper Shanghai Securities News reported Wednesday, citing a source involved in drafting the plan.
What is Environmental Economics? – Pavel Rahman, Pavel’s Thought Wave, October 16, 2010
There is a reason why Applied Environmental Economics (AEE) is a growing field of study. It is widely recognized that most environmental problems, whether small-scale or global, are the result of a complex interaction of natural processes with economic forces and decisions. AEE provides a sound theoretical base and practical appreciation of the concepts and methods of environmental and natural resource economics relevant to policy decisions and research. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Environmental Economics is defined as: “[…] Environmental Economics […] undertakes theoretical or empirical studies of the economic effects of national or local environmental policies around the world […]. Particular issues include the costs and benefits of alternative environmental policies to deal with air pollution, water quality, toxic substances, solid waste, and global warming.” In simpler terms, Environmental economics is a concentration within the traditional field of economics that focuses on modern environmental issues. Economics is about finding the right balance between how many products can be sold and how much products and services should cost (supply and demand); environmental economics is about trying to balance the needs people have for products and services with the necessity of protecting natural resources and the environment. Many environmental economists today are taking a more ecological and holistic approach to traditional economic theories, creating two different fields in this subset of economics: environmental economics and ecological economics.