To reduce trash, some states charge the companies producing it

Read the full story at Stateline.

Municipalities and waste managers around the country are raising the alarm about limited landfill capacity, and some see Extended Producer Responsibility policies as a piece of the puzzle.

EPA finds methylene chloride poses an unreasonable risk to human health

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a revision to the risk determination for methylene chloride, finding that methylene chloride, as a whole chemical substance, presents an unreasonable risk of injury to human health when evaluated under its conditions of use. The next step in the process is to develop a risk management rulemaking to identify and apply measures that will manage these risks.

Uses and Risks Associated with Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride is a volatile chemical used as a solvent in vapor degreasing, metal cleaning, in the production of refrigerant chemicals, and as an ingredient in sealants and adhesive removers. Common consumer uses include adhesives, sealants, degreasers, cleaners and automobile products.

In its revised risk determination based on the 2020 risk evaluation, EPA found that methylene chloride presents unreasonable risk to the health of workers, occupational non-users (workers nearby but not in direct contact with this chemical), consumers and bystanders. EPA identified risks for adverse human health effects not related to cancer, including neurotoxicity and liver effects, from acute and chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride. EPA also identified risks for cancer from chronic inhalation and dermal exposures to methylene chloride.

EPA used the whole chemical risk determination approach for methylene chloride in part because there are benchmark exceedances for multiple conditions of use (spanning across most aspects of the chemical lifecycle from manufacturing (import), processing, commercial use, consumer use, and disposal) for health of workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders, and because the health effects associated with methylene chloride exposures are severe and potentially irreversible (specifically cancer, coma, hypoxia and death).

Overall, EPA determined that 52 of the 53 conditions of use EPA evaluated drive the unreasonable risk determination. One condition of use does not drive the unreasonable risk: distribution in commerce. The revised risk determination supersedes the condition of use-specific no unreasonable risk determinations that were previously issued by order under section 6(i) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in the 2020 methylene chloride risk evaluation.

The revised risk determination for methylene chloride does not reflect an assumption that workers always and appropriately wear personal protective equipment (PPE), even though some facilities might be using PPE as one means to reduce workers’ exposure. This decision should not be viewed as an indication that EPA believes there is widespread non-compliance with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. In fact, EPA has received public comments from industry respondents about occupational safety practices currently in use at their facilities and will consider these comments, as well as other information on use of PPE, engineering controls, and other ways industry protects its workers, as potential ways to address unreasonable risk during the risk management process. The consideration of this information will be part of the risk management process.

EPA understands there could be occupational safety protections in place at some workplace locations. However, not assuming use of PPE in its baseline exposure scenarios reflects EPA’s recognition that certain subpopulations of workers exist that may be highly exposed because:

As EPA moves forward with a risk management rulemaking for methylene chloride, the agency will strive for consistency with existing OSHA requirements or best industry practices when those measures would address the identified unreasonable risk. EPA will propose occupational safety measures in the risk management process that would meet TSCA’s statutory requirement to eliminate unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.

Next Steps for Methylene Chloride

EPA is now moving forward on risk management to address the unreasonable risk presented by methylene chloride. Note that in taking this action, EPA has not conducted a new scientific analysis on this chemical and the risk evaluation continues to characterize risks associated with individual conditions of use in the risk evaluation of methylene chloride in order to inform risk management.

In June 2021, EPA announced a path forward for the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under TSCA to ensure the public is protected from unreasonable risks from these chemicals in a way that is supported by science and the law. The revised risk determination for methylene chloride was developed in accordance with these policy changes, as well as the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Orders and other directives, including those on environmental justice, scientific integrity, and regulatory review. EPA’s revisions ensure that the methylene chloride risk determination better aligns with the objectives of protecting health and the environment under the amended TSCA.

Separately, EPA is conducting a screening-level approach to assess potential risks from the air and water pathways for several of the first 10 chemicals, including methylene chloride. The goal of the screening approach is to evaluate the surface water, drinking water, and ambient air pathways for methylene chloride that were excluded from the 2020 risk evaluation, and to identify if there are risks that were unaccounted for in that risk evaluation. EPA expects to describe its findings regarding the chemical-specific application of this screening-level approach in its proposed risk management rule for methylene chloride.

Additionally, EPA expects to focus its risk management action on the conditions of use that drive the unreasonable risk. However, EPA is not limited to regulating the specific activities found to drive unreasonable risk, and may select from among a wide range of risk management requirements. As a general example, EPA may regulate upstream activities (e.g., processing, distribution in commerce) to address downstream activities (e.g., consumer uses) driving unreasonable risk, even if the upstream activities do not drive the unreasonable risk.

Read More.

Change in Ontario planning regulations could kill millions of birds along the Atlantic Flyway

Read the full story from Treehugger.

The government of Ontario, Canada introduced Bill 23 (“More Homes Built Faster Act”) to remove restrictions that they claim are driving up the cost of housing and slowing construction. There are many parts of the act that are causing shock and horror among environmentalists and urbanists in Ontario, but there are some that have a much wider reach than just the province.

One of the major features of the act is to remove the authority of municipalities to develop their own green standards that differ from the provincial standards. When questioned, the office of the Housing Ministry told The Star that “if municipalities create their own standards, this patchwork of energy efficiency and other requirements reduces consistency and erodes affordability.”

One of those municipal standards that are threatened is Toronto’s Bird Friendly Guidelines. Toronto and the land around it are smack in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration route running from the Arctic to South America, with many of them flying over New York City.

ESG materiality ranges beyond ‘bottom line’: SEC official

Read the full story at CFO Dive.

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) will look beyond the figures that underlie net income when determining whether a company is in compliance with the agency’s proposed climate risk disclosure rule, an SEC enforcement official said Tuesday.

“If the company has really put a lot of emphasis in its marketing around, for example, what it’s doing in the climate space, those are ways that I think it can become material even if you don’t necessarily see that translate to the bottom line,” according to Carolyn Welshhans, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.

“Something can be material to a company — for example specific to that company’s business or its operations — not just as financial statements,” Welshhans said at Securities Enforcement Forum 2022 after noting that her comments did not necessarily reflect the view of the agency. “It’s not just quantitative — it’s not just ‘does something impact the bottom line.’”

EPA to regulate methane leaks from oil and gas industry

Yesterday at COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is strengthening its proposed standards to cut methane and other harmful air pollution. If finalized, these critical, commonsense standards will protect workers and communities, maintain and create high-quality, union-friendly jobs, and promote U.S. innovation and manufacturing of critical new technologies, all while delivering significant economic benefits through increased recovery of wasted gas.

The updates, which supplement proposed standards EPA released in November 2021, reflect input and feedback from a broad range of stakeholders and nearly half a million public comments. The updates would provide more comprehensive requirements to reduce climate and health-harming air pollution, including from hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas sources nationwide. It would promote the use of innovative methane detection technologies and other cutting-edge solutions, many of which are being developed and deployed by small businesses providing good-paying jobs across the United States.

The new proposal also includes a ground-breaking “Super-Emitter Response Program” that would require operators to respond to credible third-party reports of high-volume methane leaks. The agency estimates that in 2030, the proposal would reduce methane from covered sources by 87 percent below 2005 levels.

“The United States is once again a global leader in confronting the climate crisis, and we must lead by example when it comes to tackling methane pollution – one of the biggest drivers of climate change. We’re listening to public feedback and strengthening our proposed oil and gas industry standards, which will enable innovative new technology to flourish while protecting people and the planet. Our stronger standards will work hand in hand with the historic level of resources from the Inflation Reduction Act to protect our most vulnerable communities and to put us on a path to achieve President Biden’s ambitious climate goals.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan

Oil and natural gas operations are the nation’s largest industrial source of methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, on average, over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere and is responsible for approximately one third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today. Sharp cuts in methane emissions are among the most critical actions the U.S. can take in the short term to slow the rate of climate change. Oil and natural gas operations are also significant sources of other health-harming air pollutants, including smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air pollutants such as benzene.

The Clean Air Act standards in the supplemental proposal will complement President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which provides resources for financial and technical assistance and a waste emissions charge for applicable oil and gas facilities that exceed statutorily specified waste emissions thresholds. The Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes early implementation of innovative methane reduction technologies and supports methane mitigation and monitoring activities, allowing the United States to achieve greater methane emissions reductions more quickly.

Taking into account both the supplemental proposal and other measures in the November 2021 proposal, EPA projects that the proposed standards would reduce an estimated 36 million tons of methane emissions from 2023 to 2035, the equivalent of 810 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s nearly the same as all greenhouse gases emitted from coal-fired electricity generation in the U.S. in 2020. EPA’s estimates also show the updated proposal would reduce VOC emissions by 9.7 million tons from 2023 to 2035, and air toxics emissions, including chemicals such as benzene and toluene, by 390,000 tons. These projections reflect new analysis of the costs and benefits of the proposed standards, which incorporates an improved modeling approach as well as updated estimates of the number of facilities covered by the supplemental proposal and the amount of methane and VOCs they emit.

The supplemental proposal reflects public input on the November proposal and new information and analyses, which helped the EPA determine comprehensive and cost-effective approaches to reduce pollution from oil and natural gas facilities. Key features of the supplemental proposal would:

  • Ensure that all well sites are routinely monitored for leaks at less cost, and until they are closed properly;
  • Provide industry flexibility to use innovative and cost-effective methane detection technologies, and a streamlined process for approving new detection methods as they become available;
  • Leverage data from remote sensing technology to quickly identify and fix large methane leaks;
  • Require that flares are properly operated to reduce emissions, and revise requirements for associated gas flaring;
  • Establish emission standards for dry seal compressors, which are currently unregulated;
  • Set a zero-emissions standard for pneumatic controllers and pneumatic pumps at affected facilities in all segments of the industry.
  • Increase recovery of natural gas that otherwise would go to waste – enough gas from 2023 to 2035 to heat an estimated 3.5 million homes for the winter.

Proposal includes super-emitter response program

The supplemental proposal would also establish a super-emitter response program that would leverage data from regulatory agencies or approved third parties with expertise in remote methane detection technology to quickly identify these large-scale emissions for prompt control. Studies show that large leaks from a small number of sources are responsible for as much as half of the methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, along with significant amounts of smog-forming VOCs. While many requirements of EPA’s combined proposals would reduce common sources of super emitters, EPA is proposing the response program to address super emitters’ significant pollution and impact on communities where they are located. To ensure that the super-emitter response program operates transparently, notices sent to oil and natural gas owners and operators, along with their response and any corrective actions, would be available on a website for easy access.

In addition to making EPA’s proposal more comprehensive, the supplemental proposal includes requirements for states to develop plans to limit methane emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sources nationwide. EPA is proposing to require states to submit those plans within 18 months after the final rule is issued, and to establish compliance deadlines for existing sources that are no later than three years after the submission deadline. The supplemental proposal includes requirements for considering the communities most affected by and vulnerable to oil and gas emissions, along with a demonstration of meaningful community engagement as states develop their plans.

EPA estimates that the supplemental proposal will yield total net climate benefits valued at $34 to 36 billion from 2023 to 2035 (the equivalent of about $3.1 to $3.2 billion per year), after taking into account the costs of compliance and savings from recovered natural gas. The climate benefits are estimated using the social cost of greenhouse gases, a metric that represents the monetary value of avoided climate damages associated with a decrease in emissions of a greenhouse gas. While EPA’s estimates are based on the interim social cost of greenhouse gases recommended by an interagency working group in February 2021, EPA also is including a separate analysis that is based on updated social cost of greenhouse gases estimates that address recommendations of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. The additional analysis and accompanying EPA draft technical report will be available in the rulemaking docket for public comment. EPA is also seeking peer review of the report.

EPA will take comment on the supplemental proposal until February 13, 2023. The agency will host virtual trainings to provide communities, Tribes and small businesses information about the supplemental proposal and about participating in the public comment process. Those trainings will be November 17 and 30, 2022 and registration information is available on EPA’s website. EPA will hold a virtual public hearing January 10 and 11, 2023. Registration for the public hearing will open after the supplemental proposal is published in the Federal Register. EPA intends to issue a final rule in 2023.

See more information on the proposed rule.

Biden pushes to require big federal contractors to cut climate pollution

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Biden administration on Thursday will propose requiring all major federal contractors to set targets for reducing their emissions in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord, a significant step toward greening the government’s sprawling operations and onethat could ripple across the U.S. supply chain.

California AG announces lawsuit against ‘forever chemical’ manufacturers

Read the full story at The Hill.

California on Thursday announced a lawsuit against manufacturers of so-called forever chemicals, accusing the companies of deceiving the public and endangering public health.

In a press conference Thursday, Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced the lawsuit, which names 3M and DuPont as defendants. Bonta alleges the two companies concealed health hazards associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the public and continued producing them for public use. PFAS are detectable within the bloodstream of 98 percent of Californians, according to data collected by California officials.

Although PFAS is a blanket term for thousands of compounds, the lawsuit specifically applies to seven detected in high levels in California waters: perfluorooctanoic acid, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorobutanesulfonic acid, perfluorohexanesulfonic acid, perfluorohexanoic acid, perfluoroheptanoic acid and perfluorononanoic acid. 

3M will treat or monitor water supplies for thousands in Illinois, Iowa under EPA order

Read the full story from WNIJ.

3M has agreed to widespread water testing and treatment for people living near its Cordova, Ill., factory after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that contamination from PFAS has created “an imminent and substantial endangerment” of drinking water supplies.

The requirement, part of an EPA administrative order, comes as the agency is accelerating its response to these substances, collectively known as PFAS. This move towards regulation and a bevy of lawsuits based on the health effects of these chemicals present a mounting cost for Minnesota-based 3M, which developed the compounds and uses them in products like the water and stain protector Scotchgard.

US EPA proposed Clean Air Act endangerment finding targets aviation fuel

Read the full story at the National Law Review.

On October 17, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding that lead air pollution may reasonably be anticipated to endanger the public health and welfare within the meaning of Section 231(a) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7571, and further that engine emissions of lead from aircraft contribute to such pollution. This is a two-pronged “endangerment” and “cause or contribution” finding which addresses both elements provided under Section 231 which provides that EPA shall “issue proposed emission standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of aircraft engines which in his judgment causes, or contributes to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” An endangerment and contribution finding is therefore the first step in the process of regulating lead emissions from aviation fuels. EPA often, but not always, combines these endangerment findings with the substantive regulations and emissions limitations but has not done so here.    

EPA launches new online tools to provide communities with information on environmental enforcement and compliance

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced two new online tools available to the public that provide additional information on environmental enforcement and compliance in their communities. Through improved transparency, advanced technologies and community participation, these tools empower the public to help EPA assure compliance nationwide and protect public health and the environment.

Environmental Justice metrics integrated with ECHO

Members of the public can use EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website to search for facilities in their community to assess their compliance with environmental regulations. In addition, EPA has now integrated Environmental Justice (EJ) metrics in the basic ECHO facility features, allowing users to:

  1. Search for Facilities in Areas with Possible EJ Concerns
  2. Investigate Pollution Sources in Areas with Possible EJ Concerns
  3. Examine and Create EJ Enforcement-Related Maps
  4. Analyze Trends in Compliance & Enforcement EJ Data

A short video tutorial is available to help users get started:  Environmental Justice and ECHO.

Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Dashboard

Beginning in 2015, petroleum refineries were required to install air monitors around the perimeter of their facilities.  Petroleum refineries must monitor benzene concentrations and report the results to EPA on a quarterly basis.  Those results are now accessible to the public on EPA’s Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Dashboard.

The Dashboard improves public access to program data concerning benzene emissions along refinery fencelines and allows for a more detailed analysis of that data. Public access to this information advances public transparency and environmental justice.

short video tutorial is available to help users get started.