Benefits of Staying Environmentally Compliant

Environmental compliance is in the news every day.  Which kind of publicity would you prefer for your business?

The following company received one of the EPA Environmental Quality Awards in 2009.

Toyota Motor Sales/Ryan McMullan
Torrance, California

The associates of Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance, Calif. have focused their efforts on eliminating waste. Through these efforts, Toyota’s vehicle distribution centers send less than four ounces of waste to the landfill for each vehicle processed, and its parts operations saved 17.6 million pounds of wood and cardboard in 2008. This work has had regional and national impacts — with the company’s headquarters and nine facilities achieving zero waste to landfill, ten plants achieving 95 percent waste reduction, and 12 distribution centers achieving over 90 percent recycling rates. These efforts have saved more than 110,000 trees and conserved the equivalent of 1.6 million gallons of gas through recycling materials. Ryan McMullan, an Environmental Resource Specialist with Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance, has led Toyota’s efforts to eliminate waste. He is a key regional environmental leader who has played a critical role in Toyota’s efforts to improve the environment, set aggressive goals, and educate the public and others in the business community.

Last week this company was fined for environmental violations.  It was one of many over the last year.

Usibelli Coal Mine, near Healy, Alaska, agrees to pay $60,000 EPA penalty for Clean Water Act violations

According to documents associated with the case, the Mine had 11 unpermitted discharges into the Nenana River, Hoseanna Creek, Sanderson Creek, and Francis Creek between April 2007 and July 2010. During that time, they also had 10 violations of their discharge permit limits.

According to Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Regional Office of Compliance and Enforcement, mining responsibly means paying attention and looking ahead to prevent future problems.

“Many of these discharges could have been minimized or avoided,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “By simply using and maintaining best management practices, we believe this penalty could have been avoided. Mining responsibly means making water quality protection a top priority.”

Sanderson Creek, Hoseanna Creek, Francis Creek, and nearby gravel ponds are all classified by the State of Alaska as suitable for use as water supply, water recreation, and growth and propagation of fish, shellfish, other aquatic life, and wildlife.

Usibelli has 30 days from the signature date to pay the fine and settle the case.

Noncompliance is usually more likely to receive publicity than compliance.  Staying environmentally compliant may not get you publicity, but lack of publicity is better than bad publicity. If you don’t know the environmental rules that govern your business, hiring an environmental consultant is the best and most cost effective way to avoid bad publicity.  Don’t wait till you’re in the bad news section of the paper to ask for help!

The Long Reach of the EPA

I continue to be amazed at the things EPA gets involved in.  The Mission Statement of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment.  It further contains seven bullet points that expand on this statement and a list of six things  that the EPA does to accomplish this including regulation, grants, research and education.  To see exactly how long the EPA’s reach is, one only has to enter the EPA web site on the internet.

The EPA web site went through a major redesign in 2005 when it was changed from an office based organization to a subject based organization.  According to Rebecca Hedreen, who attended a workshop on the redesign and posted a blog on the subject; at that time the EPA web site contained over 1 million HTML and PDF files, all fully searchable.  I could not find current statistics but I would not be surprised to find that there are ten times that many files today.  It is also interesting to note that there are links on the EPA home page for versions in Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Of course there are mobile apps and social media links as well.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has her own Facebook page and her own web site within the EPA website which detail her extensive travels.  She made a trip to China in October “to strengthen US-China relations and explore new avenues of cooperation in environmental protection. On Sunday, October 10, she met with the head of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Minister Zhou Shengxian. The meeting came as China and the U.S. celebrate 30 years of partnership under their first environmental protocol. During their meeting, Administrator Jackson and Minister Zhou signed a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming their historic alliance.”  See the EPA web page Strengthening US-China Relations to Better Protect the Global Environment for more information.

Another example of EPA’s long reach is the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves This public-private alliance was announced in September by EPA Administrator Jackson and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It “addresses one of the greatest threats facing developing countries and their populations — extraordinarily high exposures to toxic smoke from indoor fires and inefficient cookstoves that lead to nearly 2 million deaths each year, primarily in young children and women. The U.S. government pledged $53.32 million over the next five years to support the initiative, with EPA contributing $6 million.  “The alliance’s goal is to create the market and distribution conditions necessary for 100 million households to adopt clean cookstoves by 2020.”  This is in countries where people rely on indoor fires and inefficient cookstoves to prepare daily meals, causing severe health, economic, and environmental consequences.

The last example I will give would be laughable if it were not developing into such a serious problem in the northeast region of the United States.  To help find solutions to the nation’s bed bug problem, the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup is convening a second national summit set for February 1-2, 2011, in Washington, D.C. The summit is open to the public and will focus on ways the federal government and others can continue to work together on management and control of these pests. The first federal bed bug summit was held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2009. Since then, EPA has helped organize the Federal Bed Bug Workgroup, which consists of EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and National Institutes of Health.  Information on how to prevent bedbugs can be found on EPA’s website.

If you would like to know more about the long reach of the EPA, start at the EPA Home Page and wind your way through the millions of files available for public perusal.  You will quickly see where a portion of your tax dollars are spent.  Please comment on what you find.

What Does the EPA Do?

About a week ago as I was doing my early morning look through of the Federal Register Table of Contents, I wondered if the average person actually knows what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does.  I decided to take an informal poll of my Facebook friends to see what kind of response I would get.  I wasn’t sure anyone would even care.  I received eleven public comments and two private comments. As I suspected, most people have no idea of the depth of the EPA’s bureaucracy or the waste within the agency.  It will take several blogs to even scratch the surface. 

This week the EPA conveniently publicized a new website they have created to inform the public what EPA does. The announcement is titled EPA Launches Website to Increase Transparency of Regulatory Activity”The link included takes you to a page entitled “Total Federal Register Activity”.  Any regulation that is even thought of by the EPA is published in the Federal Register along with regulations from all the other government agencies.  A look at the daily Table of Contents will make your stomach churn.  In the six years that I have been checking the daily Table of Contents, the EPA has only missed two weekdays publishing something.

EPA publishes approximately 1,700 to 2,000 documents in the Federal Register (FR) each calendar year. The majority of the publications are “Notices” which provide general information of public interest.  If you have trouble falling asleep, this is your cure.  Only about eight percent were “Direct Final Rules” which are published after the public comment period on the “Proposed Rule” has ended. Anyone can make a comment on any “Proposed Rule” that the EPA publishes.  Most comments are made by leaders of industries affected by the “Proposed Rule”.  EPA takes all these comments into consideration before they decide to publish a “Final Rule”.

After a “Final Rule” is published it is often amended, which means it really wasn’t a “Final Rule” at all.  Also, “Final Rules” are often not implemented until a year after they are published.  This gives everyone concerned time to figure out what the Rule actually means.  Corporate attorneys become heavily involved at this point. Sometimes parts of “Final Rules” are rescinded if a covered industry can prove that the Rule will place a heavy burden on them, which usually means it will cost them a lot of money.  This provides a delicate balance between protecting the environment and keeping businesses profitable.  The general Facebook public seems to be aware of this as demonstrated by the following comments.

“Great concept if it wasn’t ruled by who had the most money or power.” M.G.

“But in our world it saddens me to say that most govt agencies have deep pockets and usually do the bidding of who is pushing/lobbying/bullying them.”  A.T.

“I don’t know how much they actually accomplish.”  I.H.

The EPA has a great public relations department (paid for by taxpayer money, of course).  Last week EPA celebrated its 40th anniversary. Stay tuned for a their list of their accomplishments over the last 40 years.

EPA Lists “General Aviation Gasoline” as a Source of Lead in the Air

In a November 16 news release, the EPA determined that 16 areas across the country are not meeting the agency’s national air quality standards for lead. These areas, located in 11 states, were designated as “nonattainment” because their 2007 to 2009 air quality monitoring data showed that they did not meet the agency’s health-based standards.  Areas designated today as not meeting the standard will need to develop and implement plans to reduce pollution to meet the lead standards. Nonattainment areas must meet the standards by Dec. 31, 2015.

There will be a second round of designations in October 2011 so if you’re not on the list now, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.  Most designations have been deferred because there is not enough data yet to make a determination.  This is the case in areas with lead associated with aviation gasoline (LL100).  Monitoring stations near airports have not been in place long enough to provide conclusive data. When looking at the data currently available, AOPA President and CEO Craig L. Fuller commented, “The entire general aviation community took a very hard look at the data the EPA presented and the questions they asked and concluded that our best input to EPA is to suggest that neither the situation nor their own findings suggest an endangerment finding is warranted.” 

This is likely to change when additional data is reviewed.  Evidence of this is the listing of general aviation gasoline in the November 16 news release as a source of lead in the air along with smelters and iron and steel foundries.  EPA has made their determination and has set out to prove it with data expected next year from air quality monitoring being conducted around airports.  Everyone from the EPA to the Avgas Coalition to General Aviation businesses knows this so the search for a replacement for unleaded Avgas continues.

What Does the SPCC Rule Deadline Really Mean?

Another deadline for updating SPCC Plans to new EPA Federal requirements is about to come and go.  Once again the EPA has extended the deadline for onshore facilities to comply with regulations that were published several years ago and amended several times.  What does this moving deadline really mean to most facilities that fall under this requirement? In reality, not much.  The bottom line is, if you have an SPCC Plan, you need to make sure it meets the rule requirements and is implemented as written.  If  you store over 1320 gallons of oil (petroleum based products, fuel, animal fat, vegetable fat, etc.) in aboveground tanks or over 42,000 gallons of oil in underground tanks and you don’t have a plan, you need one.  People get caught up in the letter of the law and forget that there is a purpose behind it.

The purpose of 40 CFR 112 – Oil Pollution Prevention, more commonly known as the SPCC Rule, is to prevent oil from discharging into U.S. navigable waters. In essence, if you can float a paper boat on it, the EPA considers it to be “navigable waters”.  While the bureaucracy behind the rule is excessive and convoluted, the purpose of the rule is a good thing.  Oil in any water is a bad thing for plants, animals and humans.  It chokes off life.  Sometimes, however, the EPA folks get a little carried away.

The most recent exception to the rule is milk which the EPA originally included in the list of oil containing substances.  Intense lobbying by the dairy farmers in the U.S. resulted in an exemption for milk.  Another exemption was given a while back for hot mix asphalt.  The reasoning behind this was that when hot mix asphalt hits the open air, it solidifies so rapidly that it can’t flow anywhere.

Stopping the flow of oil is what it’s all about.  A spill itself isn’t a terrible thing if it can be cleaned up before it hits surface water or seeps into ground water through the soil.  SPCC Plans are written so that when oil is spilled, people know how to stop it from flowing and how to clean it up quickly and efficiently.  Moving the deadline doesn’t mean industries that produce, manufacture or store oil get a pass for another year.

People, especially corporate bean counters, see an extension of the deadline and think they’re off the hook and don’t have to spend the money for an update to their SPCC Plan until next year.  While that may be true in theory, it’s similar to the old car maintenance advertisment where the mechanic says, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later”.  It’s true that the EPA can’t fine you right now if your SPCC Plan is not in compliance with the new regulations, but they can fine you if you pollute the navigable waters of the U.S.

Those fines can range from thousands of dollars to several million dollars depending on where you are and how much you spill.  DES Consultants writes SPCC Plans that are facility specific and meet the November 2011 deadline requirements.  Our plans are written in plain English; we don’t just restate the SPCC rule.  Our plans tell you how and where to stop a spill when it happens and who to call for help if you need it.  We also offer training for your employees so they clearly understand what to do if there is a spill.  Doesn’t it make sense to spend a small amount of money now and have the best SPCC Plan available?

Are the “Little Guys” fed up with the “Big Guys” and the Regulators? You Betcha!

There is a growing sentiment among pilots of some general aviation aircraft that what they call the “alphabets” (referring to the coalition formed by general aviation professional organizations) are not headed in the right direction to find a solution to the unleaded Avgas issue.  There is growing concern that not only will leaded Avgas (LL100) disappear but that Mogas (ethanol free unleaded automotive gasoline) will also.  Mogas is often the fuel of choice for pilots of smaller general aviation aircraft and light sport aircraft (LSA), mostly because it is less expensive and works well in their aircraft.

Mogas is becoming harder to find as the EPA pushes for use of more ethanol in all unleaded gasoline.  There is growing evidence that ethanol is causing deterioration of seals and corroding engine parts both in automobiles and boats.  Pilots fear if they are forced to use an unleaded blend containing ethanol that they will face the same problems.

One pilot who is voicing concerns is Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer and aviation journalist.  He; along with Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol; blogs on the General Aviation News web site.  In a recent post, Boaters unite to oppose ethanol; where are aviation’s leaders?, Misegades states,

“Unlike marine groups and their media, such as this article in Marlin, that have strongly and publicly advocated for a continued supply of ethanol-free fuel, our aviation alphabet groups have been largely silent, with the notable exception of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA). Since nearly 100% of all new LSA aircraft are powered by engines (Rotax, Jabiru, etc.) that are designed to best operate on 91 octane ethanol-free unleaded gasoline, LAMA has a strong interest in assuring a continued supply of Mogas.”

He goes on to say that “Ironically, the disappearance of Mogas, the affordable, unleaded avgas, as an option for pilots, results in far greater use of leaded fuel than is necessary, contrary to the effort of the EPA to ban its use.”

Judging from the comments posted in response to his article, he is not alone in his opinion of the direction the coalition is taking in this matter.  Misegades calls for the leaders of the coalition to “… call on Congress to prohibit the blending of ethanol in premium gasoline …”which he says will preserve an option that will reduce leaded fuel consumption as well as the cost of flying  We will follow this issue and see if their voices are heard.

Unleaded Avgas is Coming – Part 3 – Solutions

There are two ways to approach finding a solution to the leaded AvGas issue.  First, develop a new fuel to replace leaded AvGas (100LL).  Second, develop new engines and modify existing engines to run on fuel that is now readily available.   Of the two options, the most time and attention is being given to developing a replacement fuel.

A replacement fuel for 100LL must meet several criteria. 

  1. It must be non-pollutant. 
  2. It must not cause deterioration of existing aircraft engines including seals and gaskets. 
  3. It must not jeopardize aircraft safety. 
  4. It must be affordable.

Companies testing ethanol based fuels have found problems even in automobile engines (i.e. ethanol is a solvent and can deteriorate seals, gaskets, etc.; ethanol absorbs water which would be deadly in an aviation fuel tank) so this is not an option to replace 100LL.  While Swift Enterprises is developing a promising unleaded fuel, there is still much fine tuning to be done to meet these criteria.  The FAA has tested Swift’s fuel and recommends further research and testing. (FAA reports on Swift Fuel endurance data – AOPA).  Another replacement that looks promising is G100UL that is being developed by General Aviation Modifications, Inc. (GAMI).  For a report on testing of both these fuels see an article published in the American Bonanza Society (ABS) online September edition – Future Fuels.

While modifications are being made to some general aviation engines so they will run on MoGas (automobile gasoline), there are a small percentage of high performance piston engines that cannot be successfully modified.  The owners of these planes are the ones who are panicking over the likelihood of EPA banning lead in AvGas in the future.

In our opinion at DES, panic is not called for.  The wheels of government regulation turn extremely slowly.  It takes years for a proposed regulation to become effective even if there is no opposition.  The EPA has repeatedly stated that it is willing to work with the Coalition and the FAA to find a solution.  A replacement will be found or modifications made.  The big question is “What is it going to cost?”

Are U.S. Waters At Risk From Milk Pollution?

Dairy farmers are up in arms over the EPA listing of milk as an oil based substance in conjunction with the Oil Pollution Prevention Control regulation (40 CFR 112) more commonly known as the SPCC reg. Anyone who has aboveground oil storage tanks with an aggregate capacity of 1,320 gallons or greater is required to have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan. Most farmers have small tanks to store fuel and maintenance oils which must be figured into this aggregate capacity. They may also store other types of animal or vegetable fat which are classified as oil.

If farmers have to add milk storage tanks to this aggregate capacity, many of them would be required to develop an SPCC Plan. If a facility has one or more tanks with an aggregate capacity of 10,000 gallons or more, the SPCC Plan must be sealed by a Registered Professional Engineer. The cost to develop a sealed SPCC Plan averages $3,500 according to government research done several years ago. This is an expense that most dairy farmers cannot afford.

It is because of this expense and regulation that the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has requested that EPA exempt bulk milk storage from the SPCC rule. EPA, in theory, agreed to do this but typically it takes several months of comment period before a rule can be finalized. Meanwhile the deadline for complying with the SPCC rule was looming before farmers who had no idea which capacity category they were going to be regulated by.

Again the NMPF requested that EPA extend the compliance deadline so that everyone could figure out what they were supposed to be doing. This, of course, requires another comment period. If EPA finalizes the exemption and extends the deadline, it will be the seventh time the compliance date has been amended since the rule was published in July 2002. The original inclusion of milk as a polluting substance is typical of most EPA regulations. They are not thought through before they are published. The people who write the regulations are ensuring their job security by continuing this practice.

Unleaded Avgas is Coming – Part 2 – EPA’s ANPR and General Aviation’s Response

The general aviation industry has had almost three decades of warning that leaded Avgas would someday be phased out due to regulatory actions.  Is that day here?  Let’s look at recent developments.

In April 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) related to lead in aviation gasoline (Avgas).  The EPA says that it understands the complexity of the issue and has issued this ANPR to give the general aviation industry the opportunity to provide comment and suggest solutions to the transition from leaded to unleaded fuel for general aviation aircraft.

In response to this ANPR, the industry has formed a coalition to address the issues of finding a replacement for leaded avgas.  This coalition is comprised of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transport Association (NATA), and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  These organizations along with the FAA are working together to develop a plan for the transition from leaded aviation gasoline to a fuel that is acceptable to the EPA.  The ANPR has driven some general aviation fuel suppliers and users into panic mode.  The coalition is working to minimize that panic by taking a proactive approach to finding solutions that will not compromise safety, that will minimize the impact of any new, unleaded avgas on the existing general aviation fleet, and that will be cost effective.  There will be no quick and easy solutions.

Unleaded Aviation Fuel is Coming, Part 1 – The History Behind the Proposed Rulemaking

When the EPA began to regulate the use of tetraethyl lead (TEL) in automotive gasoline in the 1980′s, the aviation industry assumed it would only be a matter of time before aviation fuel would be a target even though they had a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep using it.  The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) lobbied to prevent the EPA from banning the use of unleaded fuel in the early 1990′s and was successful.  The aviation industry is the sole user of TEL and as the demand lessens, there will likely be a natural transition away from 100 octane leaded fuel.  The industry began to look for alternatives.

In May 2002, Steven W. Ells published an technical article in AOPA Pilot entitled “Lead Is Still King” which outlined the alternatives to leaded fuel that were available or being developed at the time.  He states that, “Unfortunately, at the current time there is no transparent solution. In fact, some of the cures appear to be worse than the disease.”  Now, fast forward to 2006.

In 2006, a petition was filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth in which it asked the EPA to regulate general aviation’s lead emissions.  This group, which was formed over 40 years ago, is an international environmental group with a network in 77 countries.  They have a strong lobbying presence in the U.S. and are still pushing for the removal of lead from aviation fuel.

A second article written by Mr. Ells was published by AOPA in May 2006. It is entitled “Lead Is Still King – Part II” with a subtitle of “Nearly four years later, the story is the same.”  Mr. Ells states that “In spite of a two-decade-long search for a replacement, nothing has yet been found to take its place.”  Researchers are still looking for a full replacement for 100LL that will work in all types of general aviation aircraft.  So far the closest alternative is ASTM standard 91/98 octane unleaded avgas that can be used by 70% of general aviation aircraft now using 100LL.  Meanwhile production of TEL continues to decline and in 2006 was only produced by one factory in the United Kingdom.  An alternative must be found as the EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in April 2010.