Posts Tagged ‘EPA’
Good news about the air we breathe is, well, good news indeed. Also rare. But there is some good news regarding ground level ozone, or smog, courtesy of research from Rice University and the EPA.
This can get a bit technical, but thanks to the EPA the difference between ground level ozone and high-altitude ozone, in simple terms, is: ozone is “good up high, bad nearby.” We need that high altitude ozone layer to protect the atmosphere and us. But ground level ozone, created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight, is harmful. Read the rest of this entry »
Fracking is getting heat—or at least a lot of attention—at the grassroots and at the federal levels. President Obama this month issued an Executive Order forming an interagency working group “supporting the safe and responsible development of unconventional natural gas resources.”
“Unconventional” in this case is hydraulic fracturing—aka fracking—a natural gas extraction method in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure in order to fracture, or crack open, layers of rock, making oil and natural gas accessible. Fracking makes it easier to get at the large deposits of oil and gas from shale formations.
But many also contend that it is risky and, in effect, cruel and unusual punishment to the earth’s crust and water resources. Fracking can release harmful pollutants into the air and underground water tables. There is also alarming evidence that the process causes earthquakes, which apparently is what happened last year at a fracking site near Blackpool, England. Read the rest of this entry »
It took a while—20 years!—but the EPA’s historic decision to regulate mercury emissions are cause for a major celebration and at least a dollop of optimism that the U.S. is on the right environmental path heading into the new year. That is if the Republicans don’t mess it all up by winning the White House in November. (Writing that just sent a major chill up my spine.)
Not long ago I wrote about how a few miniscule drops of mercury can contaminate a 20-acre lake and the fish that happen to reside there, thanks to coal-fired plant emissions. That’s a major reason why the EPA’s decision to regulate the emissions of mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired plants is a major victory for the health and environmental welfare of the nation. And for jobs.
Please ignore the scare tactics from Big Coal and right-wing wackos about blackouts, job losses and energy security risks as a result of the rules. That’s their big lie and they are sticking to it no matter what.
“Congress ordered the EPA to regulate toxic air pollution more than 20 years ago when it passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990,” said Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The EPA has been regulating most industries up until now, except for the biggest polluters—coal and oil-fired power plants. The public health benefits far outweigh the costs. And contrary to the doomsday predictions of industry and their allies in Congress, the lights will stay on.” Read the rest of this entry »
Talk about turning logic on its head: Four right-wing, anti-big government groups contend the EPA is “abusing” air-quality laws because the agency’s MACT (maximum achievable control technology) utility rules will force coal-fired electrical plants to shut down, thus jeopardizing the security and reliability of the U.S. power supply.
A recent petition by the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Prosperity, Center for Rule of Law, and the Freedom Through Justice Foundation is asking EPA to “look at the facts on electric reliability and its Utility MACT rule, which the agency is rushing to finalize in November.”
The coalition’s petition contends the EPA is rushing to judgment and questions the EPA’s assumptions on electric reliability. “EPA has never taken reliability seriously,” it says. “The message of this petition is simple: slow down, do the job right, and do not put reliable electric service at risk.” Read the rest of this entry »
Trident Seafoods Corp., one of the world’s largest seafood processors, will pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and invest more than $30 million to upgrade seafood processing waste controls to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The settlement with the EPA and the Justice Department will reduce discharges of seafood processing waste by more than 100 million pounds each year, they said in a joint announcement. The settlement was filed September 28 in federal court in Seattle and is subject to a 30-day public comment period. Read the rest of this entry »
Goods movement stakeholders in port areas and the Environmental Protection Agency have launched an initiative that’s designed to help clear the air and reduce emissions in the nation’s port areas.
The EPA SmartWay Drayage Program builds on clean truck programs that have been around at various port regions for several years.
The players with the EPA in the nationwide initiative include: The Coalition for Responsible Transportation and the Environmental Defense Fund. The CRT partners comprise: Best Buy; Hewlett Packard; Home Depot; JC Penney; Lowe’s; Nike; Target; Wal-Mart; and the following port trucking carriers: California Cartage Express, LLC; California Multimodal, LLC; Container Connection; Evans Delivery Company, Inc.; GSC Logistics; PDS Trucking Inc.; Performance Team/Gale Triangle; Total Transportation Services, Inc.; and the Western Ports Transportation.
The launch was announced recently at the Port of Charleston, SC. According to the joint announcement, the program “builds a partnership between numerous goods movement stakeholders including major national retailers, trucking companies, port communities, environmental groups and the U.S. EPA to solve a critical health and environmental challenge: how to reduce harmful air emissions from port drayage trucks.”
Drayage trucks, which haul cargo containers arriving at ports to storage areas, transload centers and nearby distribution centers, are usually old and a major source of diesel emissions in and around port areas. Getting those vehicles off the road is one of the thorniest and most controversial port and transportation issues around.
In a statement, Rick Gabrielson, who is the CRT President and is Target’s Director of Import Operations, said, “This partnership will generate private sector investment in clean technology, improve the environmental quality of our nation’s port communities and demonstrate the commitment we have made as the shipping industry’s leaders to emissions reductions.”
The program “offers great incentives for independent owner operators and trucking companies to replace their older drayage trucks with cleaner, less polluting models,” said Marcia Aronoff, the EDF’s senior vice president for programs. “With the rise in population and the growth of the freight transportation industry, we must be vigilant, forward thinking and creative in finding solutions that reduce toxic emissions and embrace market-based sustainability efforts.”
The drayage program is based on the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, generally regarded as an innovative and successful collaboration between the EPA and goods movement interests. The voluntary program provides a framework for assessing and addressing transportation-related emissions and energy efficiency while recognizing superior environmental performance through market-based incentives.
Under the program, port trucking companies and independent owner-operators sign a partnership agreement and commit to track diesel emissions, replace their older dirtier trucks with cleaner, newer ones, and achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in particulate matter and 25 percent reduction in nitrous oxide (NOx) below the national industry average within three years.
Then the SmartWay retailers sign a partnership agreement, committing to ship at least 75 percent of their port cargo with SmartWay trucking companies within three years.
“By giving business priority to SmartWay drayage carriers, the program creates a market-driven approach to incentivize emissions reductions at port communities across the country,” EPA says.
This approach has worked well in the Pacific Northwest, where market-based clean truck programs between stakeholders at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma have been around since 2008 and have removed hundreds of dirty drayage trucks from those port areas.
Soon your car’s AC might be really really cool, in a green way. The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved a new chemical that can drastically reduce the amount of harmful, ozone-depleting emissions from motor vehicle air conditioning systems.
The eco-friendly refrigerant uses a new chemical developed by Honeywell and DuPont—HFO-1234yf—that the agency and the companies say does not deplete the ozone layer. And when used appropriately, the chemical has a global warming potential that is 99.7 percent less than the current chemical (HFC–134a) used in most car air conditioners.
“It is homegrown innovative solutions like this that save lives and strengthen our economy.” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in a recent EPA release.
EPA said its recently issued standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty motor vehicles “provide an opportunity for automakers to receive credit for adopting a chemical with less climate impact as a cost-effective way to meet the new standards.
“Using HFO-1234yf is one option available to automakers.”
Prior to HFC-134a, car air conditioners generally used CFC-12, a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance.
The new chemical is the product of a joint manufacturing venture of Honeywell and DuPont. The venture was launched last May and several months later General Motors said it would introduce the refrigerant in 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models.
The biggest benefit of HFO-1234yf is that it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than the currently used R-134a. On average, the R-134a refrigerant has an atmospheric life of more than 13 years, giving it a global warming potential (GWP) of more than 1,400. By comparison, the new refrigerant lingers in the atmosphere for only 11 days and has a GWP of 4, a 99.7 percent improvement. By the way GWP is a value used to compare different greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. The base measurement for GWP is relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Just in time for Earth Day, something cool to celebrate. Maybe there can be better living through chemicals, or at least better cooling.
Arch Coal, the second largest coal supplier in the U.S., agreed to pay a $4 million fine for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky in a settlement reached earlier this month with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department.
In addition to the monetary settlement, Arch will implement changes to its mining operations in those states “to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act,” the EPA said. The measures will prevent an estimated 2 million pounds of pollution from entering the nation’s waters each year. Arch will also implement a treatment system to reduce discharges of selenium, a pollutant found in mine discharges.
The joint federal-state complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia alleged numerous violations of Arch Coal’s permits that set limits on the discharge of pollutants into streams. EPA said alleged excess discharges of iron, total suspended solids, manganese and other pollutants “reflect deficiencies in operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems” in place at four of Arch’s mining facilities: Coal Mac, Inc.; Lone Mountain Processing, Inc.; Cumberland River Coal Co.; and Mingo Logan Coal Co.
Arch also agreed to implement a series of inspections, audits and tracking measures to ensure treatment systems are working properly and that future compliance is achieved. In addition company is required to develop and implement a compliance management system to help foster a top-down, compliance and prevention-focused approach to Clean Water Act issues, EPA said.
Under the settlement, $2 million of the $4 million civil penalty will be paid to the U.S. The remaining $2 million will be divided between West Virginia and Kentucky based on the percentage of alleged violations in each state. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
In January the EPA revoked Arch’s water permit for Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia, saying the mountaintop removal operation there would pollute water, harm wildlife and Appalachian communities in West Virginia.
Meanwhile the EPA is extending the reporting deadline for greenhouse gas emissions from thousands of companies, which had been set for March 31, to an unspecified date later this year
“To ensure that the requirements are practical and understandable to the thousands of companies already registered to report under the program, the agency is in the process of finalizing a user-friendly online electronic reporting platform,” the EPA said.
EPA said it plans to have the final information uploading platform available this summer, with the GHG data scheduled to be published later this year. “This extension will allow EPA to further test the system that facilities will use to submit data and give industry the opportunity to test the tool, provide feedback, and have sufficient time to become familiar with the tool prior to reporting,” the agency said.
Is the EPA caving in to intense and mounting political and budgetary pressure? Perhaps—we’ll see how hard the Obama administration will fight for its most activist agency.
Is the Arch penalty enough? Will Arch really follow through and change its ways? Again, we’ll see. The penalty is a hefty chunk of change but keep in mind that Arch posted net profits of nearly $159 million last year, a 278 percent increase over its 2009 profit.
Arch moved $3.2 billion worth of coal in 2010, so in the great scheme of all things Big Coal, Arch can probably live with this slap-on-the-wrist settlement.
A 12-year battle over the future of one of the largest West Virginia mountaintop removal coal mines was resolved this week when the Environmental Protection Agency “vetoed” Spruce Mine No. 1.
Since 1998, the Sierra Club, along with Coal River Mountain Watch, WV Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Public Justice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment have fought the Spruce mine specifically and the practice of blowing up mountain tops to get at coal.
And now, apparently Spruce is stopped.
In its final determination, EPA says that after “extensive scientific study,” a major public hearing in the state and more than 50,000 public comments, it is using its authority under the Clean Water Act to halt the disposal of mining waste in streams at Arch Coal’s Mingo-Logan Coal Company mine. Read the rest of this entry »
Distracted and disturbed by oil rig explosions, massive oil spills, feckless oil companies and volcanic ash clouds? Speaking of ash, here’s some good news that maybe escaped the attention it deserves: The Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate coal ash with new rules that will ensure the “safe disposal and management” of ash produced from coal-fired power plants.
Coal ash is known more formally as coal combustion residuals; it is the byproduct of coal combustion and is disposed in liquid form in large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills.
The residuals contain contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are associated with cancer and various other serious health effects. The EPA said its risk assessment and damage cases “demonstrate that, without proper protections, these contaminants can leach into groundwater and can migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant health public concerns.”