In The Works

Volume 18, Issue 4 - April 2017

In The Works is a monthly newsletter providing Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) news and regulatory updates. The newsletter is provided by Loureiro Engineering Associates, Inc. of Plainville, Connecticut.

NATIONAL

EPA Announces Superfund Task Force to Provide Recommendations for Streamlining Superfund Program

As part of his continued effort to prioritize Superfund cleanups, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced the creation of a Superfund task force to provide recommendations within 30 days on how the EPA can streamline and improve the Superfund program. This includes: restructuring and expediting the cleanup process; reducing the burden on cooperating parties;incentivizing parties to remediate sites; encouraging private investment in cleanups and sites; and, promoting the revitalization of properties across the country.

“I am confident that, with a renewed sense of urgency, leadership and fresh ideas,the Superfund program can reach its full potential of returning formerly contaminated sites to communities for their beneficial use,” Administrator Pruitt wrote in a memo to EPA staff.

This action follows Administrator Pruitt’s recent directive for remedies of $50 million or more to be approved by the Administrator to help revitalize contaminated sites faster.

Administrator Pruitt recently visited the USS Lead Superfund Site in East Chicago, Ind., to view ongoing cleanup activities. Administrator Pruitt met with East Chicago residents, federal, state and local officials, and pledged improved coordination and communication as cleanup continues. He was the first EPA Administrator to visit this Superfund site, which was listed on the National Priorities List of the worst contaminated sites in the country in 2009.

The full text of Administrator Pruitt’s memorandum follows:

“Protecting human health and the environment is the core mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and ensuring that the Superfund program and the EPA’s land and water cleanup efforts operate effectively and efficiently is a cornerstone of this mission. In my interactions and meetings with Congress, governors,local officials and concerned citizens, I have heard that some Superfund cleanups take too long to start and too long to complete. The process of evaluating the contamination at a site and developing the appropriate remedy can take years – if not decades – delaying remediation of the site and withholding the full beneficial use of the area from the local community.

The Superfund program is a vital function of the EPA. Under my administration,Superfund and the EPA’s land and water cleanup efforts will be restored to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission. In order to properly prioritize the Superfund program that citizens count on to revitalize their communities, I am taking these immediate actions:

  • First, to promote increased oversight, accountability and consistency in remedy selections,authority delegated to the assistant administrator for Office of Land and Emergency Management and the regional administrators to select remedies estimated to cost $50 million or more at sites shall be retained by the Administrator. I have issued revised delegations and internal directive documents, consistent with this memorandum and the EPA’s legal authorities, to memorialize this change in how the agency makes these extremely significant decisions.
  • Second,notwithstanding this change, regional administrators and their staffs shall more closely and more frequently coordinate with the Administrator’s office throughout the process of developing and evaluating alternatives and selecting a remedy, particularly at sites with remedies estimated to cost $50 million or more.

Furthermore,I am establishing a task force to provide recommendations on an expedited time frame on how the agency can restructure the cleanup process, realign incentives of all involved parties to promote expeditious remediation, reduce the burden on cooperating parties, incentivize parties to remediate sites,encourage private investment in cleanups and sites and promote the revitalization of properties across the country. The task force will be chaired by Albert Kelly, senior advisor to the Administrator, and shall include leaders from OLEM, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the Office of General Counsel, EPA Region 3 (as the lead region for the Superfund program)and other offices as appropriate. The task force shall, within 30 days of this memorandum, provide me with a detailed set of recommendations on actions that the agency can take to:

  • Streamline and improve the efficiency and efficacy of the Superfund program, with a focus on identifying best practices within regional Superfund programs, reducing the amount of time between identification of contamination at a site and determination that a site is ready for reuse, encouraging private investment at sites during and after cleanup and realigning incentives of all involved parties to foster faster cleanups.
  • The task force should propose recommendations to overhaul and streamline the process used to develop issue or enter into prospective purchaser agreements, bona fide prospective purchaser status, comfort letters, ready-for-reuse determinations and other administrative tools under the agency’s existing authorities used to incentivize private investment at sites.
  • Streamline and improve the remedy development and selection process, particularly at sites with contaminated sediment, including to ensure that risk-management principles are considered in the selection of remedies at such sites. In addition, the task force should propose recommendations for promoting consistency in remedy selection and more effective utilization of the National Remedy Review Board and the Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group in an efficient and expeditious manner.
  • Utilize alternative and non-traditional approaches for financing site cleanups, as well as improvements to the management and use of Superfund special accounts.
  • Reduce the administrative and overhead costs and burdens borne by parties remediating contaminated sites, including a reexamination of the level of agency oversight necessary.

Improve the agency’s interactions with key stakeholders under the Superfund program, particularly other federal agencies at federal facilities and federal potentially responsible parties, and expand the role that tribal, state and local governments, local and regional economic development zones and public-private partnerships play in the Superfund program. In addition, the task force should propose recommendations for better addressing the liability concerns of state, tribes and local governments.

I look forward to receiving these recommendations and working together with EPA staff, as well as our partners across the federal government, in states, tribes, local communities and with potentially responsible parties and other stakeholders to improve the Superfund program. I am confident that, with a renewed sense of urgency, leadership and fresh ideas, the Superfund program can reach its full potential of returning formerly contaminated sites to communities for their beneficial use.”

CONNECTICUT

Connecticut Files Lawsuit against U.S. EPA

Connecticut has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, District of Connecticut against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to take timely action on a petition from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) asking the EPA to take action to stop pollution from a Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant from blowing Connecticut’s way.

The filing was made in early May with the United States District Court, District of Connecticut, by the Office of the Connecticut Attorney General. In the action, the Attorney General claims that EPA has failed to act on a Clean Air Act Section 126 petition filed by Connecticut with EPA on June 1, 2016. The petition asked EPA to require the Brunner Island Steam Electric Station in York County, Pennsylvania to reduce air pollution generated from its three coal-fired electric generating units because they contribute to bad air quality and public health issues in Connecticut.

“We are entering the season of hot summer days when ozone pollution is at its worst and Connecticut was counting on upwind emissions reductions from this coal plant to reduce nitrogen oxide, a main precursor to ozone formation,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “EPA’s lack of action continues the exposure of our citizens to unhealthy air when it is clear that this plant significantly contributes to our pollution and needs to be controlled.”

The Attorney General’s office had sent a citizen suit notice on March 9, 2017 notifying EPA of the State’s intention to sue if EPA did not act on the Section 126 petition within 60 days.

In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General George Jepsen said, “The EPA’s failure to act on the petition has harmed and continues to harm our State and its citizens and residents, by delaying action to address the interstate transport of air pollution from Brunner Island. This pollution significantly contributes to nonattainment of the 2008 ozone NAAQS in Connecticut, to the detriment of the health and welfare of everyone in our state.”

Background of the Lawsuit

Under Section 126 of the federal Clean Air Act, states can petition the EPA Administrator for a finding that a stationary source in another state emits or would emit an air pollutant in violation of the Act. The Administrator must make the requested finding or deny the petition within 60 days after receipt of the petition, and after a public hearing.  Once EPA makes a finding, the Act requires that the violating source not operate three months after the finding regardless of whether the source has been operating under a duly issued state operating permit.  The Administrator may allow the source to operate beyond such time only if the source complies with emission limitations and compliance schedules as the Administrator may direct to bring about compliance.

Brunner Island Power Plant

The Brunner Island Steam Electric Station owned by Talen Energy is a bituminous coal-fired electricity generating facility located in York County in Southeastern Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River.  The plant has three major boiler units that commenced operating in 1961, 1965 and 1969, and have a combined capacity of over 1500 MW.  Brunner Island is the sixth largest coal plant in the state, and the three coal-fired electric generating units (“EGUs”) at Brunner Island together emitted about 11,000 tons of NOx in 2014.  By comparison, Connecticut’s largest NOx EGU facility emitted less than 600 tons in 2014, and the total NOx emissions from all point sources combined in Connecticut was 8,800 tons.

MASSACHUSETTS

Drought Conditions across Commonwealth of Massachusetts Return to Normal

Massachusetts Monitoring of Water Resources toContinue, Indoor Water Conservation by Public Necessary

With above normal precipitation at the end of March, all of April and the beginning of May, all indices across the Commonwealth have recovered fully. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton today declared the following drought levels throughout the Commonwealth: Normal Condition levels for the Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast, Southeast Regions as well as the Cape and Islands; down from a Drought Advisory in the month of April, and unchanged for the Western Region. The declarations were the result of a recommendation issued from a recent meeting of the Drought Management Task Force, comprised of state and federal officials, and other entities.

“With the state experiencing above average precipitation for the past few months, and the continuation of best water conservation practices administered by the public, the Commonwealth’s water systems have finally reached normal conditions after two plus years of running a deficit,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Now that the outdoor watering season has begun, we must all remain diligent in our conservation practices to ensure that when prolonged dry conditions occur in the future, the state’s reservoirs, groundwater, soil moisture and streamflow systems aren’t further stressed, allowing them to recover quickly.”

“While we are pleased that drought conditions have ended for now, residents are encouraged to make indoor and outdoor water conservation a way of life to help preserve this essential resource.” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz.

The state continues to monitor and assess the drought situation, and any associated environmental and agricultural impacts. As the Commonwealth transition’s into the growing and watering season, the state reminds residents to think carefully about what they plant, encourages good landscape practices, recommends watering plants only early in the morning or late in the evening to minimize evaporation. Furthermore, the state asks the public to be mindful of the amount of water they are using, residents are asked to reduce indoor water use, address leaks as soon as possible, and for larger buildings and businesses to conduct water audits to identify areas of leaks and potential water conservation. All these steps will greatly help reduce water use to ensure essential needs such as drinking water and fire protection are being met, habitats have enough water to recover, and to sustain our water supplies and have enough for the environment.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

NHDES Staff and Programs Recognized by United States EPA

The US Environmental Protection Agency Region One (EPA New England) recognized former New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Commissioner Tom Burack during its 2017 Environmental Merit Award ceremony on Wednesday, May 3. Tom Burack received the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” award. The NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau’s Be Well Informed program and the NHDES Watershed Bureau’s Soak Up the Rain NH program were also recognized at the event.

The namesake of the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” award, passed away in 2013, after serving 41 years at the U.S. EPA. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA), in coordination with the New England State Environmental Commissioners and the EPA New England, initiated the award to honor him. In recognizing Tom Burack, who recently finished 10 years of service as commissioner of the NHDES, the award stated that he has had an outsized impact in the state, the region, and nationally. Considered a man of unequalled integrity and superb listening skills, he has a passion for not just improving, but revolutionizing how government works to achieve environmental protection.

The NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau (DWGB) was awarded a Government Merit Award from U.S. EPA Region 1 for its Be Well Informed program, which allows well owners to test their water and get treatment options. Using a federal grant, the created an online application to take information entered by the well owner from a water test lab report and evaluate treatment options for multiple contaminants, at varying concentrations. A resulting report interprets test results, summarizes health risks and provides recommended water treatment options. That guidance has educated homeowners about their well water and treatment methods, and a test of nearly 3,000 private wells found more than half exceeded standards for naturally occurring contaminants. This tool highlights the importance of testing private wells.

Soak up the Rain NH, an innovative NHDES program unique among New England states, also received a Government Merit Award for its work with citizens and local partners encouraging practices that protect and restore New Hampshire waters from pollution caused by stormwater runoff. The team works with homeowners and students, local officials and nonprofits,  municipal staff, and landscaper training programs, to name a few. SOAK NH provides training and outreach materials and has participated in watershed-based professional events, Discover Wild NH Day, the 4th Grade Drinking Water Festival and Science Fair, and joined USEPA Region 1 at the 2016 Boston Flower and Garden Show. The SOAK Facebook page and website inform homeowners how to reduce runoff, including the NH Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management: Do-it-Yourself Stormwater Solutions. Since the program began in 2012, it has worked with about 15 partner groups on 26 installations that include rain gardens, water bars, infiltration trenches and infiltration steps, rain barrels, a dry well and a buffer. The group projects are soaking up an estimated 569,214 gallons of runoff; 12,257 pounds of sediment; 6 pounds of phosphorus; and 16 pounds of nitrogen. Petition to Reduce Emissions from Pennsylvania Coal Plant.