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Corporate Environmental Lawyer Blog

October 18, 2013 Alex Bandza: 2013 Stephen E. Hermann Environmental Writing Award

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Incoming associate Alexander Bandza has been selected by the American College of Environmental Lawyers to receive the prestigious Stephen E. Hermann Environmental Writing Award in 2013. Alex's law school note "Epidemiological Study Reanalyses and Daubert: A Modest Proposal to Level the Playing Field in Toxic Tort Litigation" was awarded first place in this legal writing competition. The note was published in UC Berkeley School of Law's Ecology Law Quarterly.

Next month, Alex will be joining Jenner & Block's Environmental and Workplace Health and Safety Practice Group.

Congratulations, Alex!

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort

September 6, 2013 EPA, OSHA and ATF Issue Ammonium Nitrate Chemical Advisory

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA, OSHA and ATF have issued a chemical advisory that provides information on the hazards of ammonium nitrate (AN) storage, handling and management. This action supports the goals of President Obama's August 2013 executive order on "Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security." The advisory provides lessons learned for facility owners and operators, emergency planners and first responders from recent incidents, including the explosion in West, Texas, involving AN in order to prevent similar incidents.

The advisory takes steps now to reduce the risks associated with AN to workers, first responders and communities. It is part of an ongoing coordinated federal government effort to improve chemical safety with regards to AN and includes information on ensuring proper building design, storage containers and fire protection at their locations; learning from other accidents; and knowing and understanding the hazards that exist when developing their emergency response plans.

Earlier this month, President Obama directed the federal government to improve operational coordination with state and local partners; enhance federal agency coordination and information sharing; modernize policies, regulations and standards; and work with stakeholders to identify best practices to improve chemical safety.

President Obama established the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group. To this end, this advisory was developed by working group members and was facilitated by the working group process.

View the advisory and more information on EPA's risk management program: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/rmp/index.htm.

View President Obama's Executive Order: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/01/executive-order-improving-chemical-facility-safety-and-security.

 

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, OSHA, RCRA

September 3, 2013 New Preliminary Risk Data Available For Explosives

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA is announcing a public meeting to provide an opportunity for public input and discussion on preliminary materials for Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemicals prior to the development of the assessments for the following chemicals:

  • ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE)
  • tert-butyl alcohol (tert-butanol)
  • hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX)

New materials recently posted provide EPA's strategy for identifying relevant scientific literature for its planned IRIS assessment of RDX, preliminary health effects identified, and dose levels studies causing some or no effects. The documents are among information on five chemicals EPA released prior to its first public bimonthly IRIS meeting scheduled Oct. 23-24.

The chemicals and associated materials under discussion include:

ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) – Chemical Manager: Keith Salazar

  • Preliminary draft literature search and associated strategy and evidence tables for ETBE 
  • All references sorted by author 
  • Systematic review of the ETBE literature
  •  Opportunity to provide comments on these materials in the ETBE docket

tert-butyl alcohol (tert-butanol) – Chemical Manager: Janice Lee

  • Preliminary draft literature search and associated strategy and evidence tables for tert-butanol
  • All references sorted by author (tert-Butanol)
  • Systematic review of the tert-Butanol literature
  • Opportunity to provide comments on these materials in the t-butanol docket

hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) – Chemical Manager: Louis D'Amico

  • Preliminary draft literature search and associated strategy and evidence tables for RDX
  • All references sorted by author (RDX)
  • Systematic review of the RDX literature 
  • Opportunity to provide comments on these materials in the RDX docket 

More information about newly posted data and upcoming meeting is available at http://www.epa.gov/iris/publicmeeting/iris_bimonthly-oct2013/mtg_docs.htm.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort

August 23, 2013 Environmental Groups Petition IJC About Sulfide Mining Impacts On Great Lakes

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

At least 40 environmental groups have petitioned the International Joint Commission (IJC) to evaluate the water-related impacts from sulfide mining exploration and development within the Rainy River and Lake Superior Basins. In their petition, the groups request that the IJC make recommendations to assist governmental bodies in the U.S. and Canada in ensuring Article IV of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 is honored.

The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 provides the principles and mechanisms to resolve and prevent disputes, particularly those concerning water quantity and quality, along the boundary between Canada and the United States. Article IV of the Treaty states, "It is further agreed that the waters herein defined as boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other."

Sulfide mining is the mining of metals, such as copper, lead, nickel, gold and zinc, when these metals are embedded in a sulfide ore body. It may also be known in some contexts as "non-ferrous" or "hardrock" mining. In recent years, the lands surrounding Lake Superior and within the Rainy River Watershed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario have experienced increasing sulfide mineral exploration and development. This form of mining has a history of severe and long-lasting water pollution associated with it in the United States and Canada as well as other locations around the world.

According to petitioners, "… The expansion of sulfide mining across the region, the pollution history of this industry, and the lack of a strong regulatory framework, highlight the pressing need for an assessment of these activities' impacts on the region's water resources. We request that the Commission proceed with this analysis and recommendation development as expeditiously as practical."

Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters wisely and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.

The IJC is guided by the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1909. The treaty provides general principles, rather than detailed prescriptions, for preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared between the two countries and for settling other transboundary issues. The specific application of these principles is decided on a case-by-case basis.

The IJC has two main responsibilities: regulating shared water uses and investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions. The IJC's recommendations and decisions take into account the needs of a wide range of water uses, including drinking water, commercial shipping, hydroelectric power generation, agriculture, industry, fishing, recreational boating and shoreline property.

For more information, visit http://www.ijc.org.

 

CATEGORIES: Climate Change, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

August 14, 2013 Environmental Group Ordered To Pay Disney’s Attorneys’ Fees For Filing Baseless Reverse False Claims Act Lawsuit

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

In the latest saga of what has become a long running dispute between plaintiff RBC Four Co. LLC ("RBC") and the Walt Disney Company ("Disney"), a federal district court judge dismissed RBC's reverse False Claims Act allegations and ordered RBC to reimburse Disney for its attorneys' fees incurred in defending what the court determined to be baseless claims. According to the RBC complaint, since at least 1991, Disney has dumped dangerous chemicals into the waters surrounding its Burbank, California studios. In 1991, U.S. EPA sent Disney an information request seeking information relating to contamination at a Superfund Site in the San Fernando Valley and Disney was alleged to have responded to U.S. EPA with misleading statements and/or documents concerning its handling of hazardous materials at the Burbank site.  In its complaint, RBC argues that Disney's misleading response to U.S. EPA's information request and other information it provided to regulators over the past decade constituted efforts by Disney to avoid payment of obligations owed to the Government pursuant to various environmental laws and regulations, including the Clean Water Act and CERCLA.

The court found RBC's complaint to be devoid of any facts showing a particular legal obligation that Disney avoided by making allegedly false representations to the Government. In support of its decision to dismiss RBC's complaint without leave to replead, the court noted that the type of "obligations" that might give rise to a reverse False Claims Act claim do not extend to potential liabilities under an environmental statute as alleged by plaintiffs.

In ruling on Disney's request for sanctions, the court found that RBC's claims were "legally baseless from an objective perspective and cannot have been the product of competent inquiry." The court further noted that this was the fourth qui tam action that RBC (or one of its affiliates) had brought against Disney and is one of 12 actions that had been filed against Disney since 2007. Each of these actions has arisen out of the same or similar facts and several of those claims had been dismissed with prejudice. Although the court declined to designate RBC as a "vexatious litigant" as requested by Disney, the court noted that the record reflected that RBC had engaged in a pattern of duplicative and excessive litigation against Disney, suggesting that such a designation might be appropriate if future claims were filed. The court also ordered RBC to pay Disney's attorneys' fees and costs in defending the litigation. Please click here to see a copy of the court's order.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, RCRA, Toxic Tort, TSCA, Water

August 1, 2013 Final Rule On Solvent-Contaminated Wipes

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA has issued a final rule that modifies the hazardous waste management regulations for solvent-contaminated wipes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Specifically, this rule revises the definition of solid waste to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes that are cleaned and reused and revises the definition of hazardous waste to conditionally exclude disposable solvent-contaminated wipes. The purpose of this final rule is to provide a consistent regulatory framework for solvent-contaminated wipes that is appropriate to the level of risk posed by these wipes in a way that maintains protection of human health and the environment, while reducing overall compliance costs for industry, many of which are small businesses.

A summary chart developed by EPA provides a quick reference guide for how the new rule now will manage solvent-contaminated wipes. A press release and frequently asked questions document also are available.

The final rule will take effect January 31, 2014.

More information, including the rule, is available at http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/wastetypes/wasteid/solvents/wipes.htm.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, TSCA

July 30, 2013 New Report Examines How U.S. Businesses View Climate Change

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

A recent report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change, evaluates how companies view risks posed by climate change. C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, found that 90 percent of companies in Standard and Poor's (S&P's) Global 100 Index identified extreme weather and climate change as current or future risks in public disclosures. Of those companies, 60 percent have experienced climate-related impacts or expect to within 10 years.

The purpose of the report is to take an in-depth look at whether and how companies are responding to the increased risks and pressures presented by climate changes and extreme weather risks. It examines how companies perceive and manage these risks as well as potential business opportunities, describes common business practices for evaluating and building resilience to physical impacts, and presents a framework for emerging best practices used by leading companies to manage the risks of extreme weather and climate-related impacts. Specifically, it examines:

  • the extent to which companies acknowledge risks from the physical impacts of extreme weather and climate change
  • drivers motivating companies' actions to build resilience to climate change impacts
  • steps taken by companies to assess potential vulnerabilities
  • actions undertaken to more effectively manage the risks and maximize any opportunities
  • tools and methods used by companies to assess risks and opportunities
  • barriers preventing companies from taking more focused and forward-looking action

While generally all industry sectors acknowledged climate risks, uncertainty about climate changes presents difficulties when decisions need to be made today that have long term impacts on business. Nearly one quarter of the S&P Global 100 companies report as a challenge the uncertainty associated with the nature, timing, location or severity of climate change impacts for deciding how and when to invest in resilience beyond what is considered business as usual.

The report highlights the top five current or expected impacts from changing climate:

  • Reduction/disruption in production capacity (e.g., power outage or shortage of key input)
  • Increased operational cost (e.g., higher costs for key supplies or backup power)
  • Inability to do business (e.g., damage to facilities, communications or transport systems)
  • Increased capital cost (e.g., plant or equipment upgrades, higher insurance prices)
  • Reduced demand for goods/services (e.g., shifting market preferences or ability to pay)

The report provides case studies of various companies and significant insights into climate views on business decisions. The report also offers a four-step framework for managing risk.

The report, Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change, is available at http://www.c2es.org/docUploads/business-resilience-report-07-2013-final.pdf.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

July 24, 2013 More Progress From DHS On Security Plan Approvals

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

As previously reported here on July 2, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to make progress in managing its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The CFATS program identifies and regulates high-risk chemical facilities to ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with these chemicals.

With statistics through July 15, 2013, a recent June 2013 DHS fact sheet reports the following updates on the CFATS program:

  • More than 44,000 preliminary assessments were reviewed by DHS from facilities with chemicals of interest
  • 4,298 facilities are currently covered by CFATS
  • More than 3,000 facilities voluntarily removed, reduced, or modified their holdings of chemicals of interest
  • 1264 visits to assist facilities with compliance
  • 536 Security Plans authorized
  • 166 Security Plans approved following an on-site inspection

CFATS is the first DHS regulatory program focused specifically on security at high-risk chemical facilities. Federal law authorizes DHS to regulate security at chemical facilities that it determines are high-risk. DHS determines a facility's initial risk profile by requiring facilities in possession of specific quantities of specific chemicals of interest to complete a preliminary risk assessment. Facilities initially determined by DHS to be high-risk must complete and submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment. If DHS makes a final determination that a facility is high-risk, the facility must submit a Site Security Plan for DHS approval or an Alternative Security Program that includes security measures to meet applicable risk-based performance standards established by DHS.

It is interesting to note that the CFATS program is not 100% focused on chemical manufacturers. In fact, the majority of the first 100 approved security plans (26%) were at semi-conductor manufacturing sites. Approvals also have been completed for chemical and non-chemical manufacturing facilities, distribution warehouses, industrial gas plants, research and development facilities, waste management facilities, food processing plants, pest control facilities, and one university.

For more information about the CFATS program, visit www.dhs.gov/chemicalsecurity or call 1-866-323-2957.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort, TSCA

July 18, 2013 Coal Ash Ponds And Coal-Related Financing News

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

A new report recently released by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Dump Now, Pay Later: Coal Ash Disposal Risk for the U.S. Electric Power Sector concludes that investors may be liable for cleanup and litigation costs associated with certain coal ash ponds. RAN suggests that forthcoming EPA regulations may require closure of coal ash ponds lacking a bottom lining at an estimated cost ranging from $1M to potentially over $100M per pond. RAN notes that coal ash ponds and landfills also have prompted environmental groups and plaintiffs' firms to file lawsuits on behalf of residents near coal ash sites.

According to RAN, unlined coal ash ponds and landfills can leach contamination into groundwater for decades, leaving investors in publicly traded electric power producers potentially exposed to litigation risks. And forthcoming EPA coal ash disposal regulations may force power plant operators to incur substantial compliance costs and potentially shutter several coal-fired power plants.

Coal ash (also known as coal combustion residuals or coal combustion byproducts) is the solid waste that is produced when coal is burned. Coal-fired power plants generate both fly ash, the fine particles filtered from smokestacks, and bottom ash, the larger particles that fall to the bottom of coal furnaces. Coal ash waste streams often are recycled into components of concrete and other building materials, but the remainder is disposed of in landfills or mixed with power plant wastewater for storage as slurry in a holding pond. According to the EPA, there are over 2,000 coal ash holding ponds and landfills in the U.S.

In more news impacting the coal industry, the World Bank Group (WBG) announced this week that it will only give out loans for coal power plants in the rarest of circumstances. The WBG now prefers to fund renewable energy sources that may cost more but protect the environment. Poor developing nations look to the WBG to finance new power plants and energy projects which investments total about $8B annually. The WBG Board this month adopted a new report confirming the bank's goal to double its global share of renewable energy by 2030.

The Rainforest Action Network's report, Dump Now, Pay Later: Coal Ash Disposal Risk for the U.S. Electric Power Sector, is available at http://ran.org/sites/default/files/coal_risk_update_07_2013_vhigh.pdf.

CATEGORIES: Air, Cercla, Climate Change, RCRA, Sustainability, Water

July 17, 2013 CEC Approves New Operational Plan For 2013-2014

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Last week the Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) agreed to a new Operational Plan for 2013-2014 that focuses on collaborative actions in three strategic areas to maximize the overall impact: greening transportation, tackling climate change while improving air quality, and addressing waste in trade. Key developments included:

  • Participants at the town hall meeting on transportation and the environment, as well as the Joint Public Advisory Committee members during their round table on sustainable transportation yesterday, called for action to reduce the environmental impact from CEC member transportation networks that serve as vital links between our countries. To this end, we are announcing new initiatives to reduce emissions from trucks and buses, as well as from maritime transportation, especially at our borders and along our coasts.
  • We have also decided to bolster joint efforts to combat climate change as well as harmful air pollutants that threaten the health of our communities and our economies. These efforts are intended to focus on reducing carbon in the atmosphere through protecting coastal and forest ecosystems, avoiding black carbon emissions, collecting and disseminating reliable and comparable data on greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and promoting green building construction.
  • The management of hazardous wastes in trade, including electronic wastes and spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs), requires particular attention from our governments. The CEC Secretariat's recent Hazardous Trade? report on SLABs made specific recommendations that have been considered in developing a North American response, through our enforcement and regulatory officials, to ensure that these wastes are properly managed to avoid harming the environment and the health of our communities.
  • Finally, as part of the new Operational Plan, CEC intends to continue the collaboration on key North American initiatives tracking pollutants, protecting shared ecosystems, reducing risks from chemicals, and coordinating environmental enforcement.

Meeting in Canada in 2014, CEC plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, an agreement of historic significance borne out of trade agreement negotiations, which has enabled our three countries to work together on issues affecting our shared environment.

The CEC was established by Canada, Mexico and the United States to build cooperation among the NAFTA partners in implementing the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The CEC addresses environmental issues of continental concern according to the priorities and objectives set out in the Council Strategic Plan.

The Council, the CEC's governing body, is composed of the federal environment ministers (or equivalent) of the three countries, and meets at least once a year. The Council members are Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, Mexican Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Juan José Guerra, and Acting US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Bob Perciasepe. The Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) is a 15-member, volunteer body that provides independent advice and public input to Council on any matter within the scope of NAAEC.

For more information on any of the topics reviewed by Council, visit www.cec.org.

CATEGORIES: Air, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability, Toxic Tort, TSCA, Water

July 2, 2013 DHS Increases Pace Of Security Plan Approvals

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in a May 2013 fact sheet that it had approved 85 site-security plans for chemical facilities and authorized 380 security plans. Speaking at a conference last week, DHS Director of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, David Wulf, confirmed the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program has increased those numbers with 500 site-security plans authorized and 130 site-security plans approved.

Under the CFATS program, which was first authorized by Congress in Section 550 of the DHS Appropriations Act of 2007, facilities with quantities of chemicals above a certain threshold must complete a "top screen" listing the chemicals on site. Following the submission, facilities are assigned to Tier 1 through Tier 4, based on the security threat posted on site. Tier 1 facilities are considered most at risk.

Facilities then complete site-security plans and, once complete, have the security plans authorized. Prior to ultimate approval of the site-security plan, the facility is inspected.

CFATS has been the subject of significant criticism over the Agency's inability to authorize and approve site-security plans in a timely manner. An inspector general report in April 2013 concluded that lingering problems raised questions as to whether the program could achieve its mission.

According to the May fact sheet, the number of facilities regulated under the CFATS program declined by 31 to 4,351 since April. The fact sheet also reports that more than 3,000 facilities have voluntarily removed, reduced, or modified their holdings of chemicals of interest over the last month, up from 2,900 in April.

CATEGORIES: Hazmat, RCRA, TSCA

June 10, 2013 USGS Releases Water And Sediment Priority Constituents Monitoring Report

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The USGS has released a new report, Prioritization of Constituents for National and Regional Scale Ambient Monitoring of Water and Sediment in the United States, that addresses the methodology used to prioritize constituents to be assessed. This effort was undertaken in preparation for the third decade of the National Water – Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) including the time period 2013-2023.

Constituents were prioritized by the NAWQA National Target Analyte Strategy Work Group on the basis of available information on physical and chemical properties, observed or predicted environmental occurrence and fate, and observed or anticipated adverse effects on human health or aquatic life.

The constituents were ranked in three tiers:

  • Tier 1 with those having the highest priority on the basis of their likelihood of environmental occurrence in ambient water or sediment, or likelihood of effects on human health or aquatic life;
  • Tier 2 for constituents of intermediate priority on the basis of their lower likelihood of environmental occurrence or lower likelihood of effects on human health or aquatic life; and
  • Tier 3 of those with low or no priority for monitoring. 

Overall, 2,541 constituents were assessed with 1,081 constituents identified for ranking in Tier 1. Constituent groups included volatile organic compounds in water; pesticides in water or sediment; pharmaceuticals and hormones in water or sediment; trace elements and other inorganic constituents in water or sediment; cyanotoxins in surface water; lipophilic organic compounds in sediment; disinfection byproducts in water; high-production-volume chemicals in water; wastewater-indicator and industrial compounds in water; and radionuclides in water.

USGS began the NAWQA program in 1991 to develop long-term and consistent information on U.S. streams, rivers, and groundwater, how the conditions are changing over time, and how natural features and human activities affect these features, according to the USGS website.

The USGS report is available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5218/sir12-5218.pdf.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, FIFRA, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort, Water

June 4, 2013 Reducing Food Waste For Businesses

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

According to EPA, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, with only three percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.

How Can I Divert Food From Landfills?

  • Source Reduction/Prevention

    Preventing food waste before it is created

  • Feeding People

    Donating fresh, wholesome food to those in need

  • Feeding Animals

    Feeding safe, fresh food scraps to animals like pig farms

  • Industrial Uses

    Rendering fats, oils, and grease and turning it into products or biofuel

  • Composting

    Turning food waste into a valuable soil amendment

  • Anaerobic Digestion

    Turning food waste into renewable energy and a valuable soil amendment

Why Divert Food Waste From Landfills?

Reducing the amount of food wasted has significant economic, social & environmental benefits:

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduce Methane From Landfills
  • Reduce Resource Use Associated with Food Production
  • Create A Valuable Soil Amendment

Economic Benefits

  • Lower Disposal Costs
  • Reduce Over-Purchasing and Labor Costs
  • Receive Tax Benefits by Donating Food

Social Benefits

  • Feed People, Not Landfills

For more insights on the connection between environmental protection and food waste, visit EPA's website at http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/foodwaste/.

THINK.EAT.SAVE – Celebrate World Environmental Day June 5, 2013.

CATEGORIES: Greenhouse Gas, Hazmat, RCRA, Sustainability

May 30, 2013 IEC Supports IL Fracking Bill

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The IEC's Executive Director, Jennifer Walling, yesterday announced in an editorial in Crain's Chicago Business that the IEC supports Illinois fracking bill, SB 1715. While IEC does not support high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, this appears to be a compromise position to ensure fracking operations move forward subject to meaningful environmental regulations.

In her editorial, Ms. Walling addressed two critical points:

First, although the extraction potential of oil and gas through fracking in Illinois is unknown, oil and gas companies already have leased thousands of acres of mineral rights in southern Illinois. There is considerable evidence new fracking technology is already occurring here and it will be expanding in the near future.

The second critical fact is that Illinois has almost no regulations governing fracking. Without legislation to stringently regulate fracking, Illinois is in a highly vulnerable position. Current mining and extraction laws in Illinois are horrifically inadequate to regulate this new, highly industrialized fracking process, putting Illinois property owners at risk for the same sort of water contamination that has happened in other states. Illinois law today does not require water testing either before or after fracking. We have no setback laws governing how closely wells can be placed near homes or schools, rivers or lakes, parks or natural areas.

In short, fracking can occur anywhere in Illinois today.

While SB 1715 is compromise legislation, key provisions are included that were sought by a coalition of environmental groups such as:

  • Waste water must be stored in closed-loop tanks rather than open pits, except in rare emergency circumstances.
  • Well and surface water must be tested before fracturing and must be monitored after fracturing. If contamination is shown, the operator is presumed liable and must rebut that presumption.
  • Robust opportunities for public participation and opportunities for citizen suits to enforce the law.
  • Strong well construction standards.
  • Full disclosure of chemicals – even trade secrets must be disclosed to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and health care professionals.
  • Ban on injecting diesel compounds, setbacks, well-plugging requirements, a required water management plan which includes total water usage, and natural gas flaring requirements to minimize air pollution.

The preferred course of action for the IEC would have been passage of a fracking moratorium. Since a moratorium was not a political reality, the IEC is supporting proposed SB 1715 to regulate fracking operations. In lending IEC's support, Ms. Walling noted:

"Our support for these safeguards does not represent an endorsement of fracking. However, with risky fracking operations legal today, hundreds of thousands of acres leased for drilling, and evidence the drilling has already begun, it is essential for the Legislature to pass tough restrictions immediately to protect our communities. SB 1715 ends the possibility of high-risk unregulated fracking occurring in Illinois and we support it."

CATEGORIES: Cercla, Hazmat, RCRA, Water

May 24, 2013 Pesticide Use Data Now Available From USGS

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

The USGS recently made available detailed maps identifying annual usage of 459 pesticides throughout the U.S. The Pesticide National Synthesis Project manages pesticide data from 1992-2009 and provides specific statistics associated with pesticide use per crop and within each county.

The maps were developed for use in national and regional water-quality assessments. The USGS data was collected from surveys of farm operations and USDA statistics on annual harvest-crop acreage. This information was used to calculate use rates for each crop per year.

These maps show interesting information about the nature of pesticide use around the country. Data includes insight into the quantity of pesticide use per U.S. county as well as the specific crop growing in the same area.

The usage maps for all 459 pesticides can be accessed at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/compound_listing.php.

CATEGORIES: Cercla, FIFRA, Hazmat, RCRA, Toxic Tort, Water