Environmental News Briefs – Summer 2019
August 16, 2019
News briefs were originally published in Currents, POWER’s quarterly Environmental newsletter.
On June 26, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the resignation of Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. Mr. Wehrum was confirmed to the post in November 2017; he also worked in EPA’s Air Program from 2005 to 2007 under President George W. Bush. Under Wehrum’s leadership, EPA finalized the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) regulation, which replaced the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Deputy Assistant Administrator Anne Idsal is slated to take over Wehrum’s responsibilities. Ms. Idsal previously served as EPA’s regional administrator for Region 6.
Contact: Jennifer Seinfeld
ASTM Proposes Updates to Phase I ESA Standard
The ASTM E50 Committee on Environmental Assessments met in April 2019 to develop revisions, edits and updates to the E1527-13 Standard. The task group has proposed edits to the Non-Scope Considerations appendix to acknowledge contaminates that have been receiving regulator attention but are not classified by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) as hazardous substances, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These out of scope contaminates may be considered “in scope” for compliance with state regulations or contractual obligations in the updated standard. Minor proposed changes to the standard include: refining the definitions for Controlled Recognized Environmental Conditions and Historical Recognized Environmental Conditions, refining the relationships between the different types of recognized environmental conditions, and requiring historical research of the adjoining properties and surrounding areas in addition to the subject property. The revised E1527 Standard is anticipated to be published in 2020.
Contact: Lindsey Branham
EPA Issues New Policy Concerning Unannounced Inspections
In a July 11 memo from Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), a final policy was announced to set practices and procedures for effective partnerships with states concerning compliance and enforcement activities. The memo includes an expectation that the EPA Regions provide states with advance notice of facility inspections and come to agreement with the state concerning “whether or when” the facilities are provided advance notice of an inspection.
Contact: Karen Olson, P.E.
On July 8, EPA published the final ACE Rule, replacing the CPP. The ACE rule establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit carbon dioxide at their coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs). These guidelines are based on the use of heat rate improvement (HRI) measures as the best system of emission reduction and includes a list of six candidate technologies (e.g., blade path upgrades on the steam turbine, air heater and duct leakage control and the installation of variable frequency drives). States will establish unit-specific “standards of performance” that include emission limitations achievable using the HRI measures. Unlike the CPP, the ACE rule does not allow the use of emissions averaging or trading between units. States are required to submit plans within three years and coal-fired EGUs will have up to two additional years to reach compliance.
Contact: Steven Babler
USFWS Delays Listing Decision on Monarch Butterfly
In late 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) found that a petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) presented substantial scientific and commercial information that the listing may be warranted. This past May, the USFWS extended the deadline to determine whether the monarch butterfly warrants ESA protection until December 15, 2020, to allow more time to collect and analyze data. Along with the extension, the USFWS also extended the deadline for right-of-way (ROW) holders to enroll in the Monarch Butterfly Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) on Energy and Transportation Lands. Enrollment in the CCA would provide enrolled entities take coverage from operation and maintenance of their ROWs, should the species ultimately be listed.
Contact: Ben Bainbridge
On June 12, EPA OECA announced seven enforcement and compliance assurance priorities for the next few years. Six are considered National Compliance Initiatives (NCI) that will be directed by OECA, while the seventh is an agency-wide effort to continue to reduce childhood lead exposure. Three NCIs are aimed toward improving air quality: reducing excess emissions of volatile organic compounds/hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from stationary sources that have substantial impacts on air quality, reducing hazardous emissions from large hazardous waste generation and treatment facilities, and stopping aftermarket defeat devices for vehicles and other engines. Two NCIs focus on clean water: increasing the percentage of permittees in compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and reducing noncompliance with drinking water standards at community water systems. The remaining NCI is to reduce the risk of accidental chemical releases at industrial facilities. EPA plans to achieve the goals of the initiatives using a variety of tools, including formal enforcement actions.
Contact: Tom Rolfson
On July 18, U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal released an outline of legislation aimed at helping end plastic waste, which they propose to introduce by the end of 2019. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued a statement with a commitment to work with Congress to help protect the environment. The ACC also commented that the legislative plans to ban certain plastics would have unintended environmental consequences, referencing a study that shows the alternative to plastic packaging and consumer products would raise environmental costs nearly four-fold. Comments on the bill outline are due by August 21, 2019.
Contact: Karen Olson, P.E.
EPA Finalizes Modifications to NPDES 2017 Construction General Permit
On June 27, EPA finalized the NPDES 2017 Construction General Permit (CGP) modifications following a 45-day comment period that began in December 2018. The modified CGP removed examples of parties that would be considered “operators” under the CGP, clarified operator responsibilities in a multi-operator scenario and modified language in the Construction and Development Effluent Guidelines to clarify that demolition and placement of fill are included as regulated activities. The modified CGP does not affect the expiration date of the current five-year permit term and states are not required to adjust active permits until their renewal timeframe. Permitees who are authorized under the original 2017 CGP do not need to reapply for authorization but should consider these modifications and potential impacts to permitted projects.
Contact: Nathan Collier, CPESC
On June 25, EPA proposed a rule to allow “major sources” of HAPs subject to Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards to reclassify as an area (or minor) source and no longer subject to the standards. This proposed rule overturns EPA’s long-standing “once-in, always-in” policy that determined any facility subject to major source standards would always be subject to those standards even if it deployed pollution control technologies or modernizations to reduce HAPs to below major source levels. In January 2018, EPA published a memo finding that it had no authority to continue to impose these standards once the potential to emit (PTE) HAPs fell below major source levels. EPA is proposing that PTE HAP limits must meet effectiveness criteria of being both legally and practicably enforceable along with specific rule revisions specifying applicability of the MACT general provisions. Also, there is a requirement for electronic notification when a source reclassifies.
Contact: Tiffany Dillow, REM
New PFAS Contamination Data Reveals 712 Sites Nationwide
On July 11, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University released the latest update to their interactive map identifying sites contaminated by PFAS. The map documents publicly known PFAS impacts in public water systems and at military bases, airports, industrial facilities and firefighter training sites. As of July 2019, 712 locations in 49 states were identified as being impacted by PFAS contamination. Currently, Michigan has the greatest number of identified PFAS-impacted sites—likely due to a statewide PFAS drinking water monitoring program implemented by Michigan in 2018. As EPA and state regulatory agencies implement monitoring programs and standards for PFAS compounds, it is expected that the list of known affected sites will continue to increase.
Contact: Dennis Schucker, Ph.D., P.G.
EPA Lowering Hazard Standard for Lead in Dust on Floors and Window Sills
As part of EPA’s efforts to reduce childhood lead exposure, the EPA recently evaluated and revised the Dust-Lead Hazard Standard (DLHS). In the final rule published on July 9, EPA lowered the DLHS for floors from 40 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2) to 10 µg/ft2. In addition, the DLHS for window sills was lowered from 250 µg/ft2 to 100 µg/ft2. No change was made to the dust-lead clearance level or the definition of lead-based paint, which is defined as paint or other surface coating that contains lead in excess of 1.0 milligram per square centimeter (mg/cm2) or 0.5% by weight. The revised DLHS applies to pre-1978 homes, certain schools, child-occupied facilities and hospitals. It will become effective on January 6, 2020.
Contact: David Bradbury
EPA Evaluates Risk from Electric Power Facilities
On July 25, EPA announced its findings that the risk from Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution facilities does not warrant CERCLA-based financial responsibility requirements to cover the costs of possible hazardous substance releases. EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to take final action on this rulemaking by December 2, 2020. Two additional industries, chemical manufacturing and petroleum and coal products manufacturing, are also required to be evaluated by this deadline.
Contact: Dave Sorrells, P.E.
On July 6, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) published a proposed revision of the maximum allowable sulfur content limit for No. 2 and lighter commercial fuel oil. The proposed rulemaking would amend the current maximum allowable sulfur content limit of 500 ppm (by weight) to 15 ppm (by weight). According to the PADEP, this would allow the Department to address regional haze and visibility impairment, and the decreased SO2 emissions would also contribute to the attainment or maintenance, or both, of the 2012 annual PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) within Pennsylvania. Written public comments must be received by the PADEP by September 9, 2019.
Contact: John Schmelzle
Ohio EPA Releases Revision to Vapor Intrusion Guidance Document
On June 26, Ohio EPA released a draft revision to its vapor intrusion (VI) guidance document: Sample Collection and Evaluation of Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air for Remedial Response and Voluntary Action Programs. Significant revisions and additions were made to the original guidance, which reflect the EPA Division of Environmental Response and Revitalization’s latest understanding of appropriate policies regarding VI. The guidance directs a step-wise approach to the evaluation of VI sites, including the analysis of soil, groundwater, soil vapor, sub-slab vapor and/or indoor air samples. Included in the various changes to the document is an emphasis on the EPA’s previously published imminent hazard action levels (especially for Trichloroethylene) and the addition of a new section discussing the evaluation of VI at petroleum release sites. Although developed for use at CERCLA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Voluntary Action Program sites in Ohio, the technical approach provided in the guidance may be appropriate for sites regulated by other agencies, and in other states, where local regulations and guidance are lacking. Public comments are currently under review by the EPA.
Contact: Dennis Schucker, Ph.D., P.G.
EPA Proposes to Approve Texas SIP Submittals for 2015 Ozone NAAQS
On April 30, EPA proposed to approve the August 17, 2018 infrastructure State Implementation Plan (SIP) submittal and transport submittal from the State of Texas for the 2015 Ozone NAAQS. The submittals address how the existing Texas SIP provides for implementation, maintenance and enforcement of the 2015 O3 NAAQS, which was revised October 26, 2015. Although the plan approval by EPA does not make any findings related to designation of nonattainment areas or attainment plans, it does fulfill a statutory requirement to submit a SIP within three years after promulgation of a new or revised NAAQS.
Contact: Erik Hendrickson (512) 579-3808
Idaho IPDES Program to Issue Stormwater Permits in 2021
In 2018, EPA approved the August 2016 application from the State of Idaho to administer the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) Program. The transfer of permitting authority from the EPA NPDES Program to the IPDES Program began on July 1, 2018 and will be completed in four, twelve-month phases between 2018 and 2021. The first three phases include publicly-owned treatment works, industrial direct dischargers, and non-stormwater general permits. Permitting authority for construction, industrial and municipal stormwater, along with biosolids and federal facilities, will be transferred to the IPDES Program in the fourth and final phase on July 1, 2021.
Contact: Nathan Collier, CPESC