EPA Action: Study pans agency's idea to ease waste reporting

Also in this report: Agency urged to order Katrina cleanup; Agency proposes modification of industrial stormwater discharge rules; Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico watershed meeting convened in Memphis; Sustainability projects funded at 41 universities; Water quality standards for Grand Portage Indian Reservation approved; Surveyor pleads guilty in North Carolina wetlands case...

In other news below:
-- EPA urged to order Katrina cleanup
-- Agency proposes modification of industrial stormwater discharge rules
-- EPA convenes Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico watershed meeting in Memphis
-- Sustainability projects funded at 41 universities
-- EPA approves water quality standards for Grand Portage Indian Reservation
-- Surveyor pleads guilty in North Carolina wetlands case

Study pans EPA's idea to ease waste reporting
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 2, 2005 (Staff & Wire Reports) -- A proposed rule change by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would make it easier for industrial facilities to cover up chemical spills, a study released Thursday concluded. Its release coincided with an extension of the comment period on the proposal announced in September by the EPA to extend the comment period for easing Toxic Release Inventory data submission requirements from Dec. 5 to Jan. 13, 2006 (For more on that, click here.).

In addition to streamlining certain reporting requirements, the new rules as indicated in the Sept. 21 EPA release, "EPA Proposes Burden Reduction Rule for Toxics Release Inventory", would require overall reporting by companies of smaller toxic industrial waste spills every other year (or 24 months) instead of the current annual requirement. Details can be found at: www.epa.gov/tri/.

According to the report by the National Environmental Trust, as many as 10% of -- or nearly 1,000 -- communities that currently have a facility reporting to TRI could lose all reported data under the proposal.

Environmentalists say this would severely weaken the Toxic Waste Inventory, which tracks waste emissions. Coming out against the plan yesterday were OSPIRG (Oregon State Public Interest Research Group) and PennEnvironment, who derided the proposed change as letting "polluters hide pollution" and letting "polluters off the hook."

The EPA told Vice President Dick Cheney and the Senate in September, though, that its plan would lift a burden from businesses and "citizens would benefit from the redirection of federal and state taxpayer dollars to improve" other services.

The National Association of Manufacturers has praised the new regulations as streamlining regulations that hit small manufacturers hardest.

"By reducing threshold reporting requirements for releases that have minimal environmental impacts, the rule improves an overly broad regulation that created unnecessary costs and actually diverted resources away from significant environmental priorities," the association stated in a news release that coincided with announcement of the proposed changes.

EPA urged to order Katrina cleanup
NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 2, 2005 -- The city's parks, playgrounds, yards and streets could be contaminated for years with dangerous chemicals and cancer-causing heavy metals unless the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency orders a widespread cleanup of areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina, environmentalists said yesterday. The findings, which were in drastic conflict with official assessments, were released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and several Louisiana groups. The EPA has not said, so far, that sediment contamination warrants a major cleanup. Instead, the agency says the contamination is not widespread. In the meantime, state regulators deny the need for removing large amounts of sediment.

Agency proposes modification of industrial stormwater discharge rules
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 2, 2005 -- EPA Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 10 today are proposing EPA's NPDES general permit for stormwater discharges from industrial activity, also referred to as the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), according to a notice published in the Federal Register yesterday. The proposed permit will replace the existing permit covering industrial sites in EPA Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 that expired on October 30, 2005. Today's proposed permit is similar to the existing permit and will authorize the discharge of stormwater associated with industrial activities in accordance with the terms and conditions described therein. EPA seeks comment on the proposed permit and on the accompanying fact sheet.

Comments on the proposed general permit must be postmarked by Jan. 16, 2006.

For more information, click here or contact Jenny Molloy, EPA Headquarters, Office of Water, Office of Wastewater Management at tel.: 202-564-1939 or e-mail: molloy.jennifer@epa.gov.

Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico watershed meeting convened in Memphis
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 1, 2005 -- The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, comprised of top-level representatives of eight federal agencies and 10 states, convened in Memphis today to assess the progress being made to reduce hypoxia or the zone of low oxygen in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. The hypoxia zone has increased in size since the mid-1980's, and the task force is reviewing milestones in an action plan it released in 2001.

"Only through cooperative conservation and regional collaboration can we effectively address the problems that affect this vital waterway," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for Water. "We must work quickly and effectively using the best available science to reduce the size of the hypoxia zone by two-thirds."

Nutrients discharged by the river threaten the commercial fishing industry, which contributes to two-thirds of the commercial fishery in the lower 48 states and contributes $700 million annually to the economy. The task force was formed in 1997 to address these issues, and signed an action plan in 2001 to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone by 2015 while improving the communities and economic conditions throughout the basin.

The plan, put in place to help ensure progress, includes: 1) establishing sub-basins to assess current loadings and sources; 2) setting reduction targets and developing strategies; 3) assessing potential reductions from existing local, state and federal water programs; 4) identifying and assessing potential additional reductions from point sources; 5) developing a monitoring and research strategy; and 6) assessing and reviewing progress of the action plan every five years...

Sustainability projects funded at 41 universities
WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 30, 2005 -- The EPA awarded $410,000 to 41 student teams for the 2005-2006 academic year to research and develop sustainable designs through the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition. Sustainable development maintains economic growth while protecting the natural systems of the planet, thus preserving natural resources for future generations. The P3 student design competition was launched in January 2004, and several 2004 winners' designs have been successfully implemented into business practices.

"In an era of rising energy costs, the results of the first year of the P3 competition should make people sit up and take notice! They not only demonstrated that companies can reduce their bottom line by sustainable practices, but also the marketability of new conservation tools," said George Gray, assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. "In last year's competition, four student projects became new businesses with clients, two of them marketing energy monitoring systems. Other designs explored biodiesel production, solar thermal heating systems, green roofs, and stormwater management. We look forward to seeing the results of the competition for the 2005-2006 awards announced today"...

Water quality standards for Grand Portage Indian Reservation approved
CHICAGO, Nov. 30, 2005 -- The EPA Region 5 Office has approved water quality standards developed by the Grand Portage Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Permits allowing discharge of wastewater to Reservation waterways must meet these standards. The level of protection in the standards takes into account a higher level of fish consumption among Band members than the general public. The Band is the second Tribe in Minnesota to receive federal approval of its standards.

Water quality standards are the cornerstone of a federal water pollution control program for protecting surface water, human health and aquatic life from pollution. The standards serve as a basis for granting or denying certifications for federal projects requiring licenses or permits and are the foundation for pollution limits in federal discharge permits.

The Grand Portage Indian Reservation is on Lake Superior, in Cook County at the extreme northeastern tip of Minnesota near the Canadian border. The Band has 1,100 enrolled members. The Reservation consists of 56,000 contiguous acres which includes about 42 miles of perennial 55 miles of intermittent streams, 17 inland lakes and about 7,204 acres of wetlands.

Surveyor pleads guilty in North Carolina wetlands case
CHARLOTTE, NC, Nov. 30, 2005 -- Michael Todd Ball of Loganville, Ga., pleaded guilty on Nov. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to conspiracy, making a false statement and violating the Clean Water Act. According to the charges against him, Ball conspired with others to falsify wetlands delineation maps and make specific parcels of land appear suitable for development. He then assisted in the development of a false delineation map and forged the signature of an Army Corps of Engineers official on the false map. The map was then turned in to the Corps of Engineers to justify land-clearing activities which impacted protected wetlands. The current landowners are working with regulatory agencies to mitigate damage at the site. Wetlands are important resources for purifying surface waters and they are a home for many species. The case was investigated by the Charlotte Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Army Corps of Engineers. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

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In earlier agency reports: EPA Action: Annual Superfund data shows continuing cleanup progress -- Also in this report (Nov. 23, 2005): Agency grants more comment time on Clean Air Interstate Rule; Public comment extended on proposal to help states meet fine particle standards; Agency posts sampling data from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita; New federal rule solves longstanding Fla. wastewater problem; Early release of 2004 TRI data; More public comment sought on actions regulating utility mercury emissions; CA, FL, CT, CO cities cited for balancing development, environmental protection; EPA announces research fellowships; Agency releases performance, accountability report for FY2005; Enforcement cuts pollution by 1B pounds, requires $10B to be spent on cleanup; 12 watersheds to split $9M in federal grants; EPA, MDEQ release results of Miss. water quality study; U.S., China reaffirm commitment on environmental cooperation; U.S., global partners pledge faster greenhouse gas reductions with methane program; EPA applauds Midwest brownfield redevelopment projects as national models; Nominations open for 2006 National Wetland Awards; Next Water Quality Trading Conference set for May 2006; EPA awards $2 million for local environmental protection projects...

For the latest EPA news releases, click here.

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