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?

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?”

Administrator Jackson Tours Areas Potentially Impacted by BP Spill

WASHINGTON – EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is touring areas in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana that could be impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico today and tomorrow.

Today, Administrator Jackson joined U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for an overflight of the oil spill, and a meeting with state and local officials.  Later today, the Administrator will tour a stretch of the Mississippi coastline that could be impacted by the spill and hold a community meeting in Waveland, Miss. to discuss the spill and the government’s response. The Administrator will also visit EPA employees at a mobile air monitoring station that EPA has established in the area.

Tomorrow, the Administrator will hold an 8:30 a.m. meeting with community leaders in New Orleans. The Administrator will also tour Plaquemines Parish in New Orleans and meet with representatives of the fishing, oyster and shrimping industries. Additional details on those visits will be released as they become available.

April 30, 2010

4:00 p.m. CST              Administrator Jackson Holds Community Meeting

Leo Seals Community Center

527 Hwy 90

Waveland, Miss.

May 1, 2010

8:30 a.m. CST               Administrator Jackson Holds Community Meeting

Greater Little Zion Baptist Church

5130 Chartres St.

New Orleans, La.


Note: If a link above doesn’t work, please copy and paste the URL into a browser.

EPA Establishes Web site on BP Oil Spill

EPA launches site to inform the public about health, environmental impacts of spill

WASHINGTON – As part of the ongoing federal response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, EPA today established a website to inform the public about the spill’s impact on the environment and the health of nearby residents. The website – – will contain data from EPA’s ongoing air monitoring along with other information about the agency’s activities in the region. Also today, Administrator Jackson joined Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to tour the region. The Administrator will spend the next 36 hours visiting with community groups and meeting EPA staff responding to the spill.

Additional information on the broader response from the U.S. Coast Guard and other responding agencies is available at:

“We are taking every possible step to protect the health of the residents and mitigate the environmental impacts of this spill,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “For several days, EPA has been on the ground evaluating air and water concerns and coordinating with other responding agencies.  We are also here to address community members — the people who know these waters and wetlands best.  They will be essential to the work ahead.”

EPA has established air monitoring stations along Plaquemines Parish on the Louisiana coast. EPA established those facilities to determine how oil set on fire in the gulf and oil that is reaching land is impacting air quality. EPA is monitoring levels of a number of chemicals potentially emitted by oil, including volatile organic compounds such as xylene, benzene and toluene.

EPA has also deployed two Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzers – mobile laboratories that collect and analyze air quality samples in real time – to monitor air quality in the region.

EPA tested smoke from the controlled burn two days ago and found the Louisiana coast had not been affected because an off-shore breeze was blowing away from land and out to sea during that time. The agency will continue to collect and share data with the public, and will coordinate and share information with local health officials.

In addition to monitoring air quality, EPA is also assessing the coastal waters affected by the spreading oil. EPA deployed our twin-engine aircraft to assist in the collection of air sampling data and photograph the spill and surrounding area.

All of the data EPA collects will be posted to , along with frequently asked questions, fact sheets about potential health impacts of the spill, and links to more information on the spill and the government’s response.

EPA to Cut Mercury, Other Toxic Emissions from Boilers, Solid Waste Incinerators

Cost-effective proposals would reduce harmful air pollution in communities across the United States

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing proposals that would cut U.S. mercury emissions by more than half and would significantly cut other pollutants from boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators. These pollutants include several air toxics which are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health problems and environmental damage. The proposed rules are estimated to yield more than 5 dollars in public health benefits for every dollar spent.

“Strong cuts to mercury and other harmful emissions will have real benefits for our health and our environment, spur clean technology innovations and save American communities billions of dollars in avoided health costs,” said EPA  Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This is a cost-effective, commonsense way to protect our health and the health of our children, and get America moving into the clean economy of the future.”

Combined, these proposals would cut annual mercury emissions from about 200,000 industrial boilers process heaters and solid waste incinerators, slashing overall mercury emissions by more than 50 percent. Industrial boilers and process heaters are the second largest source of mercury emissions in the United States.

Mercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born. When emitted to the air, mercury eventually settles in water, where it can change into methylmercury, which builds up in ocean and freshwater fish and can be highly toxic to people who eat the fish. This sometimes leads to fish consumption advisories to protect public health.

When fully implemented, today’s proposal would yield combined health benefits estimated at $18 to $44 billion annually. These benefits include preventing between 2,000 and 5,200 premature deaths, and about 36,000 asthma attacks a year. Estimated annual costs of installing and operating pollution controls required under these rules would be $3.6 billion.

These actions cover emissions from two types of combustion units. The first type of unit, boilers and process heaters, burns fuel such as natural gas, coal, and oil to produce heat or electricity. These units can also burn non-hazardous secondary materials such as processed tires and used oil. Boilers are located at large industrial facilities and smaller facilities, including commercial buildings, hotels, and universities. The second type of unit, commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators, burns solid waste.

Large boilers and all incinerators would be required to meet emissions limits for mercury and other pollutants. Facilities with boilers would also be required to conduct energy audits to find cost effective ways to reduce fuel use and emissions. Smaller facilities, such as schools, with some of the smallest boilers, would not be included in these requirements, but they would be required to perform tune-ups every two years.

EPA is also proposing to identify which non-hazardous secondary materials would be considered solid waste and which would be considered fuel. This distinction would determine whether a material can be burned in a boiler or whether it must be burned in a solid waste incinerator. The agency is also soliciting comment on several other broader approaches that would identify additional non-hazardous secondary materials as solid waste when burned in combustion units.

EPA will take comment on these proposed rules for 45 days after they are published in the Federal Register. EPA will hold a public hearing on these rules soon after they are published in the Federal Register. For more information on the proposals and details on the pubic hearings:

EPA Requires Contractors to Become Lead-Safe Certified

Agency expects more than 125,000 contractors to be trained by April 22 deadline

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it expects more than 125,000 renovation and remodeling contractors to be trained in lead-safe work practices by April 22, the effective date for a rule requiring such training. The agency is on target to implement the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which will protect millions of children from lead poisoning, on
April 22, 2010. Continue reading