EPA Action: Judges uphold agency authority to override state clean water rules

In other agency news: U.S. unveils clean air deals with Valero, Sunoco to cut emissions by 44,000 tons a year; EPA, partners act to cut lead levels in drinking water in schools, child care facilities; Agency estimates future costs of safe drinking water at $277 billion; Chesapeake Bay partners take actions to reduce bay pollution; Alabama pipe company, executives found guilty of environmental crimes...

In other agency news below:
-- U.S. unveils clean air deals with Valero, Sunoco to cut emissions by 44,000 tons a year
-- EPA, partners act to trim lead levels in drinking water in schools, child care facilities
-- Agency estimates future costs of safe drinking water at $277 billion
-- Chesapeake Bay partners take actions to reduce bay pollution
-- Alabama pipe company, executives found guilty of environmental crimes

Judges uphold EPA authority to override state clean water rules
CINCINNATI, OH, June 18, 2005 -- The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported a federal appeals court upheld an order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force Ohio to adopt clean-water tests to guard Lake Erie from sewage in the waning months of the Clinton Administration.

As such, state and local rules have to be at least as exacting as those of the EPA in regulating discharge of pollutants into the Great Lakes and Ohio River, according to the decision.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled on the matter Thursday, declaring the agency was empowered to override state rules that allow unacceptable levels of pollution. Otherwise, according to the EPA order, living creatures -- usually minnows or waterfleas -- would have been exposed to chemically treated wastewater in laboratory tests that serve as early warnings on potential toxicity.

Indiana's water-pollution testing system was struck down in the same ruling issued by a three-judge panel.

The more stringent water pollution tests are key tools to ensure protection of water quality in the Great Lakes, EPA officials said.

The agency was arguing for more uniformity in how Great Lakes states regulate water quality and to better protections for aquatic life. Its authority was challenged by sewer districts in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati, and a coalition of Indiana organizations that argued water pollution control programs in place in the two states were rigorous enough.

For additional details, see: "Court says EPA can override state clean-water rules".

U.S. unveils clean air deals with Valero, Sunoco to cut emissions by 44,000 tons a year
WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2005 -- The EPA and U.S. Department of Justice announced comprehensive Clean Air Act settlements with petroleum refiners Valero and Sunoco expected to reduce harmful air emissions by more than 44,000 tons per year from 18 refineries in eight states.

The states of Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas joined EPA in the settlement with Valero. The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Oklahoma, and the city of Philadelphia joined the EPA in the settlement with Sunoco. The settlements are part of EPA's national effort to reduce air emissions from refineries, which has now brought 65 percent of domestic refining capacity into pollution reduction agreements. To date, settlements under this initiative are reducing pollution at 76 refineries. Valero and Sunoco represent 15 percent of domestic refining capacity in the United States. These agreements will bring them into compliance with the law.

A consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas will require Valero and Tesoro (purchaser of the former Valero Golden Eagle Refinery in Martinez, Calif.) to spend more than $700 million to install and implement innovative emission control technologies at their refineries. Actions under this agreement are expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOX) by more than 4,400 tons and sulfur dioxide (SO2) by more than 16,000 tons per year.

A consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will require Sunoco to spend approximately $285 million to install and implement control technologies to reduce emissions at its refineries. Actions under this agreement are expected to reduce NOX by more than 4,400 tons and SO2 by more than 19,500 tons per year.

The air pollutants addressed by today's agreements can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate asthma in children.

"These agreements are the result of our refineries initiative, which is improving the environment and at the same time creating a level playing field in the industry," said Thomas V. Skinner, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Sixty-five percent of our nation's petroleum refining capacity now has committed to make significant improvements that will benefit everyone."

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson noted: "Today's two comprehensive settlements reduce air pollution by thousands of tons of pollutants and yield cleaner air for all of us to breathe. The Department will continue to aggressively pursue actions like these that enforce environmental laws and bring us closer to ensuring clean air compliance across our nation's refining industry."

To meet obligations under EPA's New Source Review program, Valero, Tesoro, and Sunoco will cut emissions significantly from the units with the largest emissions through the use of innovative technologies. They will upgrade leak detection and repair practices, implement programs to minimize flaring of hazardous gases, reduce emissions from sulphur recovery plants, and adopt strategies to ensure the proper handling of benzene wastewater at each refinery. Valero and Tesoro's affected refineries are located in Benicia, Martinez and Wilmington, California; Corpus Christi (two refineries), Houston, Sunray, Texas City and Three Rivers, Texas; Krotz Springs and St. Charles Parish, Louisiana; Ardmore, Okla.; Denver, Colo.; and Paulsboro, N.J. Sunoco's affected refineries are located in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook, Pa.; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla.

"Valero has worked in cooperation with state and federal regulators to reach this settlement," said Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, where Valero is headquartered. "As a result, we avoid a costly trial, save the taxpayers money and secure environmental compliance much more quickly."

Valero will pay a $5.5 million civil penalty and spend more than $5.5 million on environmentally beneficial projects to reduce emissions further and to support activities in the communities where it operates. Sunoco will pay a $3 million civil penalty and spend more than $3.9 million on environmentally beneficial projects. The states joining the settlement will share in the cash penalties and the environmental projects.

Under EPA's Petroleum Refinery Initiative, these settlements bring the number of multi-issue, multi-facility settlements reached with major United States refiners to 15. Other major refiners in similar settlements include Motiva Enterprises, Equilon (Shell) and Shell Deer Park Refining, Marathon Ashland Petroleum, Koch Petroleum Group, BP Exploration & Oil, Chevron, Citgo, Conoco and ConocoPhillips. The agreements provide for a comprehensive, cooperative approach to addressing environmental problems across the industry.

The proposed consent decrees are subject to a 30-day public comment period.

For more information on the Petroleum Refinery Initiative, go to:
www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/oil/index.html

For more information about the Valero settlement, go to:
www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/valero.html

For more information about the Sunoco settlement, go to:
www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/sunoco.html

EPA, partners act to trim lead levels in drinking water in schools, child care facilities
WASHINGTON, DC, June 15, 2005 -- Through education and outreach, child care facilities and schools will be assisted by EPA and its partners to understand and reduce children's lead exposure from drinking water.

The Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies, National Rural Water Association, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, and Environmental Protection Agency signed a partnership agreement, which focuses attention on testing drinking water for lead in schools and child care facilities.

"EPA's goal is to emphasize prevention by focusing on three T's: testing, telling, and training," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "This agreement is a big step toward meeting our goal."

Deborah Price, assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education, added: "We're pleased to be working in a coordinated effort with the EPA and the CDC for the benefit of keeping children healthy. Schools will receive beneficial direction from this partnership so that they can understand and reduce children's lead exposure from drinking water."

The signatories agreed to encourage schools and child care facilities to test drinking water for lead; disseminate results to parents, students, staff, and other interested stakeholders; and take appropriate and necessary actions to correct problems.

Children's exposure to lead is a significant health concern and may include impaired mental development. Because children spend a significant part of their day in schools and child care facilities, understanding and reducing lead exposures in those facilities is especially important to EPA and its partners.

To access a copy of the agreement, go to: www.epa.gov/safewater/lcrmr/lead_review.html#schools.

In related news, see: "Public-private alliance reduces lead in drinking water of schools, preschools".


Agency estimates future costs of safe drinking water at $277 billion
WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2005 -- To continue to ensure safe drinking water, the nation's water utilities will need to make an estimated $277 billion in investments over the next 20 years, according to EPA's third Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment. This large national need reflects the challenges confronting water utilities as they deal with aging infrastructures that were constructed 50 to 100 years ago in many cases.

"Water infrastructure is a lifeline for community health and prosperity," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "As our communities grow, so too must the commitment of the government and citizens to sustainable financing, innovative management and technology, and efficient use of water."

Water utilities pay for infrastructure using revenue from rates charged to customers and may finance large projects using loans or bonds. State and federal funding programs, such as EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, are also available to help companies address their water system infrastructure needs.

Results from the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment are used to develop a formula to distribute Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grants. Since the program began in 1997, EPA has made available nearly $8 billion in funding to states for infrastructure projects to help utilities provide safe drinking water. States supplement their EPA grants by matching funds and with bonds, repayments and interest earnings.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to conduct the assessment every four years. This report to Congress, which reflects data collected in 2003, documents anticipated costs for repairs and replacement of transmission and distribution pipes, storage and treatment equipment, and projects that are necessary to deliver safe supplies of drinking water.

The report and related materials are available at: www.epa.gov/safewater/needssurvey/.

In related news, see: "Experts Available to Discuss EPA Report on Increased Cost of Safe Drinking Water".

Chesapeake Bay partners take actions to reduce bay pollution
WASHINGTON, DC, June 13, 2005 -- The policies needed to clean up wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay are in place and are working, state and federal officials said today.

Because these policies are being implemented effectively, additional regulations being recommended by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to reduce pollution in this vital watershed would only add delay to the progress being made and divert resources from cleanup.
"EPA has determined that existing regulations, coupled with the collaborative partnership outlined in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, will get us results faster than developing new federal rules," said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water. "Recent actions taken by Maryland, Virginia and other Bay partners will help to ensure that we achieve and maintain our restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries."

For additional details, Click here.

Alabama pipe company, executives found guilty of environmental crimes
WASHINGTON, DC, June 13, 2005 -- McWane Inc., and its employees James Delk, Michael Devine, and Charles "Barry" Robison were found guilty June 10 by a federal grand jury of environmental crimes connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Ala.

The jury found the company, Delk and Devine guilty of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act by discharging industrial wastewater through storm drains into Avondale Creek in Birmingham in violation of their permit. McWane Inc., and Delk were also convicted of 18 counts of discharging pollutants into Avondale Creek between May 1999 and January 2001. Devine was also convicted of seven counts of discharging pollutants into Avondale Creek between May 1999 and January 2000. In a related count, McWane Inc., and Robison were convicted of making a false statement to the EPA.

McWane is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in Birmingham, which operates iron foundries at various locations across the country. Delk, 37, is a former vice president and general manager at the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company and now works at a McWane facility in New York. Robison, 65, of Birmingham, Ala., is the vice president for Environmental Affairs at McWane. Michael Devine, 44, is a former plant manager at McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company who now works for McWane in New Jersey.

"The defendants polluted Alabama's environment and engaged in a concerted effort to cover it up," said EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator Thomas V. Skinner. "These convictions demonstrate that companies and their senior executives will be held responsible for environmental crimes."

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson said "the guilty verdicts reflect the Justice Department's unwavering commitment to enforce the nation's environmental laws and prosecute those who break them. Companies and corporate officials who put production and profits above the welfare of the public and the environment will be brought to justice."

Alice H. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, added: "This verdict sends a clear message that corporate defendants as well as individuals will be held accountable for their criminal conduct in violating the Clean Water Act. I trust this conviction will result in greater efforts by 'corporate America' to prevent future pollution and provide cleaner water for the citizens of Alabama. The government will seek significant fines and custody for those convicted of these offenses."

Defendants Delk and Devine face a maximum sentence on the conspiracy count of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum sentence for an individual convicted of the Clean Water Act charges is a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000 per day of violation and by imprisonment for not more than three years. For McWane Inc., the maximum penalty for the conspiracy and Clean Water Act charges is a fine of the greater of $500,000 or $50,000 per day of violation and probation of five years. On the false statement charge, the maximum penalty for McWane Inc., is a fine of $500,000 and five years probation, and the maximum penalty for Robison is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing has been set before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Propst on Oct. 25, 2005.

This case was investigated by EPA and FBI special agents and by investigators of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Jefferson County Storm Water Management Authority.

Senior Trial Attorney Christopher J. Costantini and Trial Attorney Kevin Cassidy of the Environmental Crimes Section of DOJ and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey prosecuted the case.

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In earlier EPA updates, see: "EPA Action: New source review response stresses improvements to permitting program" -- ALSO in this report (June 6, 2005): Agency upholds RFG requirement in Calif., N.Y., and Conn.; National Environmental Justice Advisory Council charter renewed; Federal dollars help states improve nation's beaches; CWSRF 2004 Annual Report offers proven integrity, performance; St. Louis man sentenced for environmental, fraud violations; Individual, company plead guilty to violating Clean Water Act; Input sought for Compliance Assistance Centers; Blending policy rejected; People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Awards announced; Water, wastewater plants join Energy Star to cut electricity costs; All states to share in Water Quality Monitoring Funds...

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