Friday, October 30, 2009

U.S. EPA Releases Air Monitoring Data for Chicago School

U.S. EPA Region 5 recently released the first set of air monitoring data for St. Josaphat School, which is a Catholic elementary school located at 2245 N. Southport in Chicago. 

The data was gathered as part of the Schools Air Toxics Monitoring Initiative that is designed to show whether long-term exposure to toxic chemicals in the outdoor air poses health concerns for children and staff at 63 schools, as well as for residents in the surrounding community.  EPA selected St. Josaphat School because it is located near at least one large industry that is a source for air toxics emissions.

These first results showed that "levels of the key hazardous air pollutants at St. Josaphat are below levels of short-term concern."

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deal Exempts Steamships on Great Lakes From Air Pollution Requirements

According to this story from the Associated Press, a deal struck in Congress will "effectively exempt 13 ships that haul iron ore, coal and other freight on the Great Lakes from a proposed federal rule meant to reduce air pollution." 

The rule was designed "to reduce emissions of airborne contaminants blamed for smog, acid rain, respiratory ailments and possibly cancer. Large ships are leading producers of nitrogen and sulfur oxides and tiny contaminated particles that foul the air near ports and coastlines and hundreds of miles inland."  According to the Lake Carriers' Association, without the exemption, the rule would ground 13 steamships while forcing 13 others to use fuel 70% more expensive than currently in use.

According to this article from the Associated Press today, the exemption was included in a stopgap spending measure passed by Congress to avoid shutting down most federal agencies.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U.S. EPA's New Risk Analysis for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes Rule

Yesterday, U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Data Availability inviting comments on a revised risk analysis for proposed revisions to regulations governing solvent-contaminated wipes.

A wide variety of industries use wipes (including rags, shop towels, disposable wipes and paper towels) for cleaning and degreasing.  Those wipes are handled in various ways.  For example, wipes may be used once or several times before they are thrown away, while other wipes are used, laundered, and reused multiple times.  During cleaning and degreasing operations, these wipes may become contaminated with solvents, as well as with other materials.  When those wipes are discarded, they can, under certain circumstances, be considered hazardous waste under the federal hazardous waste regulations.

In 2003, U.S. EPA proposed exclusions from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA") definition of solid waste for solvent-contaminated wipes sent to a laundry or dry cleaner, and from the definition of hazardous waste for solvent-contaminated wipes sent to a landfill or combustion facility,  provided certain conditions were met.  Industry argued for this proposed change because, they argued, when small amounts of solvent are used on each wipe, minimal risk occurs when they are ultimately disposed.

After U.S. EPA proposed the exclusions, it decided to conduct a "more robust risk analysis" to determine the risk to the public and the environment by these wipes.  U.S. EPA issued yesterday's Notice of Data Availability to request comments on the new risk analysis and to inform the public of potential changes to the solvent-contaminated wipe rule.

The first change would allow the disposal of solvents not showing a risk in any municipal landfill or nonhazardous waste landfill whether lined or unlined.  The solvents that indicated a potential risk if disposed of in an unlined landfill could only be disposed in a lined municipal landfill or lined non-hazardous waste landfill.

The second change would establish conditions that allow all solvent-contaminated wipes, no matter which solvent they contain, except perhaps tetrachloroethylene, to be sent to a municipal or industrial landfill unit subject to, or otherwise meeting, certain other requirements.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

US EPA Proposes Rule Limiting Reach of Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Today, U.S. EPA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (the "Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule") that addresses which companies will be affected by the regulation of greenhouse gases in the near future.

In March 2010, U.S. EPA expects to finalize and promulgate its light-duty motor vehicle rule, which will control greenhouse gas emissions from certain mobile sources.  But the light-duty motor vehicle rule will have a very significant impact--it will trigger the application of Clean Air Act permitting requirements for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.  This is a significant trigger because millions of small sources of pollution could have been subject to stringent new permitting requirements.  To prevent the administrative and regulatory nightmare that would occur if all of these small sources were subject to new requirements, U.S. EPA today proposed a tailoring rule that would limit and phase-in the trigger.

The new proposed rule is complex and there is insufficient room in this blog to fully analyze the implications.  But, in a nutshell, any facility that emits greenhouse gases above the proposed threshold of 25,000 tons per year on a "carbon dioxide equivalent" (tpy CO2e) will be required to obtain new permits for any new construction or major modification.  This first phase would last six years.  Within five years of the publishing of the final version of the tailoring rule, EPA would conduct a study of the administration of the permitting issues.  Then, U.S. EPA would conduct another rulemaking, to be completed by the end of the sixth year, that would promulgate, as the second phase, revised thresholds for the permitting requirements.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Green" Gas Station in Deerfield

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported on a "green" gas station.  According to the article, the station earned green certifications from the Green Business League and the village of Deerfield.

The station features energy-saving motion sensors on the light switches and tap faucets, as well as a 52-gallon barrel near the gas pumps to collect rainwater runoff from the overhead canopy.  It also uses energy-efficient light bulbs, has foliage and evergreens, and uses nontoxic cleaning products.  A thermostat that regulates after-hours temperatures has been installed.

Congratulations to the owner of this station for all of his efforts.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Healthy" House in Long Grove

There has been a lot of talk in the news about "green" construction.  But most of the discussions deal with commercial buildings.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune reported on a house that was built by Dior Builders according to the Health House Builder Program sponsored by the American Lung Association.  A "healthy" home has the following components: foundation waterproofing and moisture control; advanced framing techniques; air sealing and advanced insulation techniques; energy efficient, high performance windows; energy efficient and sealed combustion appliances; high efficiency air filtration; whole house ventilation; humidity control; and carefully selected and reviewed interior finishes.

According to the brochure, this 7,500 square-foot luxury home in Long Grove "showcases sustainable technology with a focus on air quality, locally sourced materials, water conservation and energy efficient technology. This home is ENERGYSTAR® certified."

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

International Day of Climate Action

Today is the International Day of Climate Action.  Environmental groups from around the globe are organizing events to gain support for an international climate change treaty.  Their goal is to bring down the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.  This is what some scientists are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.  You can read more about the International Day of Climate Action here.

There are several events going on in Illinois.  For example, Benedictine University's Club 350 will be staging a human “350” that on the turf of the Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex football field after the game between Benedictine and Lakeland College.  Other environmentally-friendly activities are being organized at Benedictine around the theme, “Green Halloween,” including a clean-up of Lake St. Benedictine.

Please click here for a list of all of the events happening in Illinois.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

U.S. EPA Announces Settlement of Two Enforcement Actions

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 announced the settlement of two enforcement actions.  Region 5 includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

First, EPA reached an agreement with an Elk Grove testing and metal coating business for alleged violations of federal hazardous waste rules.  The company will pay a $62,031 penalty.  EPA alleged that the company failed to label a tank and container, keep a container closed, train personnel and keep records, document daily tank inspections, install a leak detection system for its storage tank, have its storage tank assessed for structure integrity and maintain an adequate contingency plan.  Please click here for the news release of the settlement.

Second, EPA reached an agreement with a Zion scrap metal recycling company for alleged violations of federal clean air rules governing safe disposal of chloroflurocarbons ("CFCs") and hydrochloroflurocarbons ("HCFCs") from small applicances.  EPA alleged that the company accepted small appliances without recovering refrigerants and did not obtain proper verification statements showing that refrigerant was properly recovered.  Instead of paying a penalty, the company agreed to participate in a compliance program, including providing notice to customers that the company will not accept small appliances unless the suppliers can certify that the refrigerants were properly removed.  Please click here for the news release of the settlement, and click here for the Administrative Consent Order.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Building Owners To Pay $70,000 To Settle Air Pollution Enforcement Action

According to a recent order of the Illinois Pollution Control Board, the owners of a building in Springfield, Illinois have settled an enforcement action for $70,000. 

The Attorney General had alleged that the owners violated state and federal clean air laws by: (1) causing or tending to cause air pollution; (2) failing to thoroughly inspect the building for the presence and location of asbestos-containing material (ACM) prior to commencing asbestos removal and disposal activities; (3) failing to notify the Illinois EPA of scheduled asbestos removal activities at the building at least 10 working days prior to commencing such activities; (4) failing to properly remove all regulated ACM (RACM) from the building before commencing planned renovation activities, which broke up, dislodged, and similarly disturbed the RACM; (5) failing to adequately wet all RACM and prevent damage or disturbance to the RACM during cutting or disjoining operations at the building; (6) failing to adequately wet and maintain wet all RACM and regulated asbestos-containing waste material at the building until collected and contained in preparation for disposal at a site permitted to accept such waste; (7) failing to have at least one representative at the building trained in the provisions of the NESHAP for asbestos and the means of complying with them; (8) failing to adequately wet and keep wet, containerize, and label all asbestos-containing waste material at the building, thereby causing or allowing the discharge of visible emissions to the outside air; and (9) failing to transport to a waste disposal site, or Agency-approved site that converts RACM and asbestos-containing waste material into nonasbestos material, and deposit as soon as practical all asbestos-containing waste material generated during asbestos removal activities at the building.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

New Law Requires Public Notice of Groundwater and Soil Gas Contamination

New Public Act 096-0603 imposes new requirements for notice to the public of groundwater and soil gas contamination.

First, the owner or operator of a community water system must notify all residents and owners of premises connected to the affected community water system when Illinois EPA either (1) refers a matter for enforcement or (2) issues an order sealing wells.  (New 415 ILCS 5/18.1.)

Second, Illinois EPA must notify residents and owners of premises connected to affected community water systems (or connected to water systems receiving water from the affected community water system) when the agency determines that groundwater contamination poses a threat of exposure to the public above Class I groundwater quality standards.  (New 415 ILCS 5/25d-3(a)(2)(B)(ii).)

Third, Illinois EPA must notify owners of contaminated property that soil gas contamination above Tier 1 remediation objectives extends beyond the boundary of the site where the release occurred.  (New language added to 415 ILCS 5/25d-3(a)(1).)  Previously, Illinois EPA was only required to provide notice only for soil contamation.  Now, soil gas contamination is included in the notice. 

So what does this all mean?  The public will have more knowledge than ever about contamination in their water supply and in their soils.  And that is probably a good thing, because citizens will be able to avoid things that can potentially make them sick.  Will we see more litigation based on these notice requirements?  It remains to be seen.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

$242 Million for Energy Efficiency for Illinois Homes

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that $242 million will be available to Illinois homeowners through the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program. Weatherization efforts "include insulating attics or walls, repairing windows and doors, weather-stripping and caulking."

The money for this program came from the federal stimulus package. As a result, eligibility for the program is determined by family size and household income in accordance with federal guidelines. The program's goal "is to serve those households that have the lowest incomes, together with the highest energy burdens. Income, eligible households with high heating bills, in relation to income, and those containing elderly members (60 and over) with a disability or young children (5 years of age or below) will be given priority and weatherization services first."

To apply for the program, you should contact the appropriate agency provider in your area. Please click here for a list of agency providers.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Environmental Register for September 2009

The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently issued its Environmental Register publication for September 2009. The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, an appellate court update, a rulemaking update, a summary of actions of the Board, a summary of new cases, and the Board's calendar. A link to the Environmental Register can be found here.

I will be blogging about some of the news contained in this publication. Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.