EPA Action: New source review response stresses improvements to permitting program

In other agency news: Agency upholds RFG rule in Calif., N.Y., and Conn.; Nat'l Environmental Justice Advisory Council renewed; Fed bucks help states improve nation's beaches; CWSRF 2004 Annual Report released; St. Louis man sentenced for environmental, fraud violations; Input sought for Compliance Assistance Centers; Blending policy rejected; P3 Student Awards announced; Water, wastewater plants join Energy Star to cut electricity costs; All states to share in Water Quality Monitoring Funds...

In other agency news:
-- 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

New source review response stresses improvements to permitting program
WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2005 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded on June 6 to petitions for reconsideration from a number of stakeholders on the Equipment Replacement Provision (ERP) of the Agency's New Source Review (NSR) permitting program. After carefully considering the comments received during the reconsideration process, EPA determined that the ERP should be maintained as adopted in 2003.

EPA continues to believe that the October 2003 ERP rulemaking is fully justified and will provide much needed clarification to the NSR program while still ensuring environmental protection. The ERP offers certainty for industrial facilities by clearly spelling out that the NSR program should not stand as a barrier to equipment replacement activities needed to assure the safe, efficient, and reliable operation of manufacturing facilities.

The ERP, in conjunction with other programs such as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, the Acid Rain Program and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, preserves public health protections provided by the Clean Air Act through the NSR program. Under the ERP facilities cannot increase their emissions past their current Clean Air Act limits.

For additional information on the New Source Review Program visit: www.epa.gov/nsr.

Following are other Agency developments that may interest you:

EPA Upholds Reformulated Gas Requirement in Calif., N.Y., and Conn.
WASHINGTON, DC, June 2, 2005 -- The EPA rejected petitions made by the states of California, New York and Connecticut to waive the oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG).

In announcing the action Assistant Administrator of Air Jeff Holmstead explained: "Congress has required the use of oxygenates as part of the clean fuels program and has made it clear that this requirement can only be waived if a state demonstrates that it prevents or interferes with the state's ability to meet national air quality standards. California, New York and Connecticut did not make this demonstration."

RFG is a cleaner-burning gasoline required by the Clean Air Act to be used in certain metropolitan areas of the United States with the worst ozone air pollution. It has been used since 1995 and continues to be a highly effective strategy to reduce harmful emissions from motor vehicles that cause ozone, commonly called smog. RFG also reduces emissions of harmful toxics, such as benzene. The Clean Air Act also requires RFG to contain 2% oxygen by weight. The law does not specify which oxygenate must be used and most refiners use either ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether). RFG sold in California, New York and Connecticut, however, contains only ethanol, since each state has banned the use of MTBE due to water contamination concerns.

Today's action follows an extensive review of the information submitted by each state in support of its petition. This is EPA's second response to California, which sued EPA after the agency denied the state's original petition in 2001. Today's decision was made after EPA reviewed new information submitted by California and after EPA scientists and engineers conducted additional analysis to address the 9th Circuit Court's decision to vacate the agency's original denial.
While EPA agrees with California's claim that an oxygen content waiver would lead to a decrease in certain vehicle emissions that contribute to the formation of smog and particulate matter, EPA concludes that the overall impact on emissions is slight. The agency found that total volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are likely to decrease with a waiver while carbon monoxide (CO) emissions are likely to increase.

EPA's denial of California's petition is based on the lack of evidence proving that the emission impacts of a waiver would lead to any earlier attainment of the air quality standards for smog or particulate matter than would occur without a waiver. In other words, California has not demonstrated that the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with the state's efforts to achieve clean air.

EPA found that neither New York nor Connecticut submitted the technical data necessary for the agency to determine what impact the waiver would have on emissions and air quality. Without this information, EPA could not evaluate whether the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with attainment of the smog or particulate matter standards, and therefore must deny the waiver request.

Since Congress created the RFG program in 1990, much has been learned about cleaner-burning gasoline. The administration supports efforts by Congress to remove the oxygen requirement from the RFG program and replace it with a flexible national renewable fuels program.

"This legislation would provide California, Connecticut, New York and other RFG areas the relief they are seeking through these waiver requests without compromising the benefits of clean fuel," said Holmstead. For more information on this action and the national RFG program, visit: www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg_regs.htm#waiver

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council charter renewed
WASHINGTON, DC, May 26, 2005 -- The charter for the federal advisory panel that provides advice and recommendations on broad environmental justice issues has been extended until Sept. 26, 2006. The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) advises the EPA administrator on how to extend environmental protection to all its programs, policies and activities, particularly those with environmental degradation that has not been properly addressed, and recommends ways to facilitate more public participation in government decision-making.

"NEJAC has made significant contributions to our efforts to integrate environmental justice considerations into the agency's decision-making," said Thomas V. Skinner, acting assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Their recommendations are given serious consideration at the highest levels of the organization."

Through NEJAC, EPA has received advice and recommendations on environmental issues from a wide variety of stakeholders, including communities, tribes, non-governmental organizations, industry, states and academia. Established in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act in 1993, NEJAC is one of 23 federal advisory committees to EPA. NEJAC's charter would have expired in September 2005, and its charter is reviewed annually. All EPA advisory committees are routinely reviewed; these important relationships and the advice offered by these panels are valued as the agency makes decisions.

More information on NEJAC is available at: www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/nejac/index.html.

Federal Dollars Help States Improve the Nation's Beaches
WASHINGTON, DC, May 25, 2005 -- As Americans plan their summer vacations this Memorial Day weekend, EPA is helping states, tribes, and local beach managers to improve their beach monitoring and public notification programs. The Bush Administration announced almost $10 million in grants to assist in monitoring for pathogens in recreational waters. During the past four years, EPA has provided nearly $42 million in grant money to 35 coastal states and territories.

"Beaches are often a part of our summer recreational activities," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "Through these grants, we can improve the water quality and keep the public informed so that they can enjoy trips to the beach confidently."

Congress passed the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) in October 2000 to make monitoring programs more consistent nationwide, improve water quality testing at the beach, and help beach managers better inform the public about water quality problems. The act authorizes EPA to award grants to help eligible states, tribes, and territories develop and implement beach water quality monitoring and notification programs. These grants also help develop and implement programs to inform the public about the risk of exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal waters (including the Great Lakes).

The administration's Clean Beaches Plan finalized in April 2004 is helping state, tribal, and local beach managers strengthen their programs. This plan describes what EPA will do over the next couple of years to achieve two major goals: promote recreational water quality programs nationwide and create scientific improvements that support timely recreational water monitoring and reporting. The plan also recognizes that beach managers need tools that allow for local and regional differences in pollution sources and climate.

In addition, EPA's Office of Research and Development sponsors research to improve the understanding of human health risks associated with pathogens in recreational waters and to provide better, faster indicators for monitoring pathogens in recreational waters. More information on Beach and Recreational Water Quality and Monitoring is available at: www.epa.gov/ord/NRMRL/pubs/625r02017/625r02017.htm.

For information about the water quality at beaches, local protection programs and other beach-related activities, go to: www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund 2004 Annual Report underscores integrity, performance
WASHINGTON, DC, May 25, 2005 -- EPA is releasing its 2004 annual report on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund highlighting program activities and successes through the past 15 years. The fund is the largest federal funding program for water infrastructure projects across the country. The Proven Integrity and Performance report provides an overview of the fund, describes its financial status and economic and environmental performance, and discusses new directions for the future.

Since it was created in 1988, the fund has provided low-interest loans targeting a wide range of projects in areas like wastewater treatment, non-point source pollution control, estuary management, and a host of projects focusing on water quality.

The report provides an in-depth look at how the fund operates and describes projects it has financed that help protect and improve the nation's water quality. This first report established a system for reporting for long into the future. To expand use of the fund to support a sustainable nationwide water infrastructure, the agency hopes that the successes the report documents will attract new borrowers to the program.

You can view and download the report at: www.epa.gov/owmitnet/cwfinance/cwsrf/.

Enforcement Wrap-up for Week of May 25, 2005:
St. Louis Man Sentenced for Environmental, Fraud Violations -- Phillip H. Cohn, of St. Louis, Mo., was sentenced on May 20 before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, East St. Louis, Ill., to 60 months imprisonment and five years supervised release. The court also ordered Cohn to pay $347,200 restitution to East St. Louis, Illinois School District 189. Cohn had previously pleaded guilty to submitting false invoices to School District 189 purportedly for environmental cleanup work at the Clark Middle School site. He then caused the endorsements of environmental companies to be forged on checks issued from the escrow account and used the money for personal expenses. Cohn obtained about $350,000 from the escrow account through his criminal conduct. As part of his plea agreement, Cohn agreed to make full restitution to School District 189. On the environmental Clean Air Act charge, Cohn failed to remove substantial quantities of known asbestos containing materials from the historic Spivey Building, the tallest building in East St. Louis, before sending work crews into the Spivey Building to conduct demolition and renovation work. The prosecution was the result of an investigation conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; United States Postal Inspection Service; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; United States Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Illinois Environmental Protection Agency; Illinois Attorney General's Office; and the Illinois State Police. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith.

Individual and Company Pleaded Guilty to Violating Clean Water Act -- David Marshall Haggard Sr., and the Haggard Company Inc., both of Winchester, Ky., pleaded guilty on May 20, 2005, to knowingly discharging trucked and hauled pollutants directly into the Winchester Municipal Utilities sewer system in violation of national Clean Water Act pretreatment standards. David Marshall Haggard faces maximum potential penalties of three years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 to $50,000 per day of violation or $250,000, whichever is greater, and supervised release for a period of one year. The company faces maximum potential penalties of a fine not less than $5,000 no more than $50,000 fine per day of violation or $500,000, whichever is greater. The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr.

Input Sought -- Understanding Requirements and Saving Money
WASHINGTON, DC, May 24, 2005 -- Compliance Assistance Centers, created through EPA sponsored partnerships with industry, academic institutions, environmental groups, and other agencies, help businesses, local governments and federal agencies understand federal environmental requirements and save money through pollution prevention techniques. Through websites, telephone assistance lines, fax-back systems, and e-mail discussion groups, the centers help address real-world issues. Once a year, the centers survey their users and first-time visitors on how well they are meeting their goals. The results of the surveys help the centers provide resources for environmental compliance.

To take the three minute survey and learn about incentives to respond, go to: www.assistancecenters.net/2005survey/.

To learn more about the Compliance Assistance Centers, go to: www.assistancecenters.net.

Blending policy revisited with negative results
WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2005 -- Based on review of all public comments and congressional hearings, EPA will not finalize the sewage blending policy as proposed in November 2003.

"Blending is not a long-term solution,'' said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "Our goal is to reduce overflows and increase treatment of wastewater to protect human health and the environment."

To provide clarity in the ways peak wastewater flows are handled, the agency proposed a policy in November 2003 that addressed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements for municipal wastewater treatment during wet weather conditions. After receiving more than 98,000 public comments, the agency is now in the process of determining other options to address pollutant discharges during wet weather conditions.

EPA will continue to review policy and regulatory alternatives to develop the most feasible approaches to treat wastewater and protect communities, upstream and downstream. EPA will work with Congress, communities, and citizens on effective and efficient approaches that protect communities and ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.

For information about the proposed policy, go to: www.epa.gov/npdes/blending.

People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Awards
WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2005 -- To encourage sustainable solutions to environmental issues, EPA last year launched the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award competition. On May 16 - 17, more than 400 college students exhibited their innovative solutions for an environmentally sustainable future on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

"The originality and breadth of these projects demonstrates the high degree of innovation and environmental interest that exists on college campuses today," said E. Timothy Oppelt, acting administrator, EPA Office of Research and Development. "These young students represent the scientific leadership of tomorrow."

The P3 Award winners, who were selected by a panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences are:
* Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio -- design of a low-cost system that enables visual observation and interpretation of total energy and water consumption for individual dormitory floors or an entire college campus.

* Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y. -- design of a low cost, multifunctional solar oven for use in developing Latin American countries. Solar ovens can reduce wood consumption, thus lessening deforestation and soil erosion.

* University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. -- a system to compare the costs, health and economic benefits, and performance of three drinking-water treatment technologies for developing nations.

* University of Colorado, Denver, Colo. -- a sustainable system design to meet the energy needs of a tribal village in India, using local materials and renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines, anaerobic digesters, solar cookers, and efficient stoves.

* University of California, Berkeley, Calif. -- use of ultraviolet light to disinfect drinking water at the point of use -- the household tap or neighborhood well.

* Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. -- management model for research labs to select less toxic, green chemical alternatives. The system inventories types and volumes of lab chemicals and links to alternative green chemical databases.

* University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. -- AWARE@Home: a tool for households to monitor resource consumption patterns in real time and on-demand, and to measure the costs and impacts of specific energy conservation actions. The homeowner can see immediately the results of conservation actions in dollars saved and emissions reduced.

More information about the P3 Award winners and the competition can be found on the Internet at: www.epa.gov/P3. Additional information about the EPA's sustainability research program can be found at: www.epa.gov/sustainability.

Water and wastewater plants join Energy Star to cut electricity costs
WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2005 -- U.S. drinking water and wastewater plants are joining a new EPA initiative to increase their energy efficiency and reduce municipalities' electric bills. Over the next year, with participation by more than 20 organizations, the new Energy Star Industrial Water and Wastewater Focus will develop an energy performance rating system, a guide to assessing energy efficiency opportunities, strategies for superior energy management, and innovative approaches to financing energy efficiency projects. This new Energy Star program for water systems is part of a series of efforts to improve the energy efficiency of selected industries.

Drinking water and wastewater systems spend about $4 billion a year on energy to pump, treat, deliver, collect, and clean water -- with much of this cost borne by ratepayers and municipalities. The energy costs to run drinking water and wastewater systems can represent as much as one-third of a municipality's energy bill. If drinking water and wastewater systems reduce energy use by just 10% through cost-effective investments in energy efficiency, collectively they would save about $400 million and 5 billion kWh annually.

Currently, the Energy Star Water and Wastewater Focus includes the American Council for An Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), Awwa Research Foundation, California Energy Commission (CEC), Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), Columbus (GA) Water Works, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Los Angeles - Bureau of Sanitation, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Public Technology Institute (PTI), Water Environment Federation (WEF), Wisconsin Focus on Energy, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), and WateReuse Association.

EPA, through Energy Star, develops focuses for sectors that consume large amounts of energy, produce significant carbon emissions, have large costs associated with energy use, and would benefit from tools and resources to improve energy efficiency. EPA currently has an Energy Star Industrial Focus for the corn-refining, beer-brewing, automobile assembly, and cement industries.

Information on Energy Star's Industrial Focus is available at: http://energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=news.nr_news#new_focus, and additional information about Energy Star is available at: www.energystar.gov.

All states to share in Water Quality Monitoring Funds
WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2005 -- Every state will get additional water quality monitoring funds as a result of an EPA decision to target a $9.92 million increase in fiscal year 2005 water pollution control grants for these activities. Each year, the EPA awards funds to assist states (including territories and the District of Columbia), Indian Tribes and interstate agencies in establishing and implementing water pollution control programs. The funds are awarded under Section 106 of the Clean Water Act.

EPA will provide a total of $208.3 million for the grant program in FY 2005. While the majority of these funds will be awarded according to established funding formulas, EPA used a different approach to target the state portion of the funding increase -- $9.1 million -- specifically for water monitoring activities. These activities provide the data necessary to support cost-effective water quality management decisions and to generate a national assessment of water quality conditions. Funding increases for interstate agencies and tribes will be distributed in accordance with existing allotment formulas.

The alternative allocation formula responds to priorities identified by the president in his FY 2005 budget request and by Congress in awarding the additional funds in the appropriations process. By using the alternative state allocation formula, EPA will award each state an additional $172,000 in funding, while each territory and the District of Columbia will receive $86,000. EPA Regions will distribute grant funds after reaching agreement with individual states on program priorities and commitments.

For further information, visit the Water Pollution Control Program Grants web page at: www.epa.gov/owm/cwfinance/pollutioncontrol.htm.

***

In related news:
-- "EPA selects Kinetico for use in 17 arsenic reduction demonstrations"
-- "EPA Action: ADB partnership to improve human health, environmental quality in Asian cities" -- Also in this report (May 16, 2005): Science Forum focuses on national, international environmental partnerships; People, Prosperity and the Planet Award student designs on National Mall; Water systems meeting drinking water standards serve 90% of population; Luna sworn in as head of EPA's Administrative Office; 2003 Toxics Release Inventory shows decline in chemical releases; Landmark Clean Air Interstate Rule to take effect; Studies provide updated information on CCA-treated playgrounds, decks; Possible voluntary pilot program for nanoscale materials posed; Final amendments out on four emission standards for hazardous air pollutants; $75.9 million in brownfield grants announced; Ten U.S. corporations pledge greenhouse gas cuts; America celebrates National Drinking Water Week

###

More in Environmental