CERCLA Feed

EPA Lacks Authority to Regulate Plastic Microbeads in Water

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Tiny microbeads are introduced everyday into waterways from many personal care products and over the counter drugs. The plastic microbeads (often made of polyethylene or polypropylene) are recent additions in facial scrubs, soaps, toothpastes and other personal care products as abrasives or exfoliants. A single product may contain as many as 350,000 of these nanoparticles. Last week, EPA’s Janet Goodwin, Chief of the EPA Office of Wastewater’s Technology and Statistics, confirmed again that EPA lacks regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to  regulate consumer use of plastic microbeads entering wastewaters, despite growing concern over impacts to the environment.

According to Ms. Goodwin, most of the plastic microbeads that are found in wastewater effluent come from consumer use. The EPA only has authority to regulate plastic microbeads that enter wastewater from industry, either through effluent guidelines or pretreatment standards.

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New Report Confirms Environmental Sustainability is Good Business

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

A new study released by Morgan Stanley confirms that investors appear to place a premium on sustainability yet believe that sustainable investments require some financial sacrifice. Two key findings include: 1) nearly three-quarters (72%) of those surveyed believe that companies with good environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices can achieve higher profitability and are better long-term investments; and 2) 54% believe that sustainable investing involves a financial trade off.

The study set out to analyze potential performance and risk differences between sustainable and traditional investments. A range of studies on sustainable investment performance were reviewed along with performance data for 10,228 open-ended mutual funds and 2,874 Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs) based in the U.S.  Through the review, Morgan Stanley concluded that investing in sustainability has usually met, and often exceeded, the performance of comparable traditional investments. Specific findings include:

  1. Sustainable equity mutual funds met or exceeded the median return of traditional equity funds for 64% of the time periods examined.
  2. Sustainable equity mutual funds also had equal or lower median volatility for 64% of the time periods examined.
  3. For the longest time period (seven years trailing, 2008-2014), sustainable equity mutual funds met or exceeded median returns for five out of six different equity classes examined (for example, large-cap growth).
  4. Long-term annual returns of the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, which comprises firms scoring highly on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, exceeded the S&P 500 by 45 basis points between its inception in 1990 to the end of 2014.

The study was conducted by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. The Institute seeks to accelerate mainstream adoption of sustainable investing by developing industry-leading insights and scalable finance solutions to address global challenges.


EPA Request for Public Comments on 1,4-Dioxane

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

On April 28, 2015, EPA announced the availability of a problem formulation and initial assessment document for the Work Plan Chemical 1,4-Dioxane and opened a 60-day public comment period until June 29. The notice also seeks input on EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics' (OPPT) initial concerns about the industrial solvent 1,4-Dioxane.

Following receipt of comments on the problem formulation and initial assessment document and consideration of any additional data or information received, EPA will initiate a risk assessment which is the process to estimate the nature and probability of adverse health and environmental effects in humans and ecological receptors from chemical contaminants that may be present in the environment.

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Revised TSCA Reform Bill Approved by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

At long last, with a 15-5 bipartisan vote, a Senate bill that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) moved out of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.  Notwithstanding continuing objections from Senator Boxer, the bill that came out of the committee contained a host of changes from the original bill that were intended to address concerns that had been raised by democrats, environmental and public health advocates and U.S. EPA.

Several of these key changes include:

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Earth Day 2015: Beach Clean Up!

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

On Friday, April 17th, Jenner & Block partnered with ComEd and Exelon to clean up the 12th Street beach at Northerly Island, in cooperation with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Our group picked up over 85 pounds of broken glass, plastic beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarettes, and other miscellaneous trash and debris.

The Adopt-a-Beach program is the premier volunteer initiative for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Teams remove litter and enter results into the Adopt-a-Beach online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the public, and improve the beaches and the health of the Great Lakes.

This picture shows our team after clean up efforts at 12th Street beach: 

Beach Day Cleanup

 

What will you do to celebrate Earth Day 2015? How about participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program?

To learn more about beach clean up opportunities or to schedule an event, visit http://www.greatlakes.org/.

A special thanks to our own Gay Sigel for organizing the Jenner & Block team. Thanks, Gay!


Earth Day 2015: Water Scarcity—Important Developments

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

While much progress has been made in the U.S. to address water quality since the first Earth Day in 1970, increasingly the critical issue of the day is water quantity and specifically sufficient availability of safe water for everyone. According to the World Water Council, 1 in 9 people in the world, or approximately 750 million individuals, lacks access to safe water. In January 2015, the World Economic Forum identified water scarcity as the #1 global risk based upon possible impact to society. These issues exist worldwide, including throughout the U.S.

This month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced the state's first-ever mandatory effort to cope with four years of the worst drought in California's history including a 25% use reduction on cities and towns. There are 5 things you need to know about California's water situation, according to National Geographic's ongoing research and study of water scarcity issues in the Western U.S.:

  1. The state (and much of the West) relies heavily on snowpack each winter to resupply surface water streams and lakes. Because of a lack of winter storms and record high temperatures this past winter, snowpack in California is at an all-time low. This is the fourth consecutive year that the snowpack has been below normal. The state's hydropower supply is also threatened when snowpack is scarce.
  2. When surface water supplies are low, hidden water supplies beneath the surface in aquifers, or groundwater, are drilled to make up the shortfall. A large aquifer under the Central Valley is being rapidly depleted to make up for shortfalls in surface water supply. A 2011 study indicated that the Central Valley Aquifer is losing an amount of water each year equivalent to the nearly 29 million acre-feet of water found in Lake Mead, the nation's largest surface reservoir on the Colorado River. (An acre-foot is one acre of ground covered one foot deep in water.) California for the first time last year passed legislation regulating groundwater use, but those restrictions will not come into effect for years.
  3. While the 25 percent water use restrictions announced last week are intended to help reduce demand, most of the water in California is used for farming, which was largely not included in Brown's announcement on restrictions. California's farms produce and export fruits and vegetables, hay for livestock, and meat and dairy products. Surface water for farms is allocated from state and federal water projects. Water supply restrictions for farmers may be announced soon by the state, but farmers have been drilling groundwater to compensate for surface supply shortages. Last week's rules require only that agricultural operations improve their reporting of water use to the state.
  4. California is not the only state in the West facing water supply issues. Winter snowpack in Oregon and parts of Washington was far below normal. The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, has also been in a drought for more than a decade, and the river basin's aquifers have been declining, too. 
  5. When California faced a major drought in the late 1970s, fewer than 20 million people lived in the state. Now nearly 40 million live there. While Californians have drastically improved the efficiency of their water use in recent years, if rain and snow do not arrive later this year, the supply of groundwater—much of which is non-renewable—will continue to decline as it is used to make up for surface shortages.

The good news is there are two technical advancements that are currently available to mitigate water scarcity issues—one more mainstream and the other yet to be a "politically correct" option given public perceptions:

  1. Desalination—this age old process of converting seawater to drinking water is gaining in popularity despite costs and energy demands. A $1B plant is near completion by Poseidon Resources in Carlsbad, CA and will be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. 13-15 plants are proposed for California between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are 300 plants in the U.S. today and over 12,500 plants worldwide, particularly in the Middle East.
  2. Janicki Bioenergy's Omni Processor—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in this low cost, hyper-efficient sewage treatment plant which produces clean drinking water that meets both FDA and World Health Organization standards AND generates the very energy it requires to run. Janicki Bioenergy, based in Seattle, WA, has a prototype operating in Washington State and this year enters the developing world with a plant in Dekar, Senegal. Here's how it works:
  • The sewage sludge is fed into the plant by conveyor belt and dried in a tube that separates solid waste from water. The Omni Processor's intensely hot incinerator reaches 1,000 degrees Celsius, scorching enough to kill all pathogens and, perhaps more important for those living downwind, to operate without the expected offensive smell.
  • Converted into vapor, the water is spun in a centrifuge to remove remaining particles and then fed through two layers of filters. Next, it is cooled and condensed, at which point it is filtered one more time. The latest model can yield 86,000 liters of pure drinking water each day.
  • The remaining solids are then fed into an incinerator, yielding a high-powered steam that drives a generator, which in turn produces the very electricity that runs the plant (the Dakar unit produces 150 kW per day), plus excess energy that can be diverted back to the surrounding community. Another byproduct is a phosphorus-rich, disease-free ash that can be used as fertilizer. And the circle of life continues.

While some solutions exist, water remains a precious natural resource and there is no alternative. Every sector of society needs to do their part to conserve, protect and restore water resources in conjunction with governmental action to regulate quality concerns, improve infrastructure and water distribution systems, and address use limitations when appropriate.

For more information about water security, recent developments, and ongoing efforts to ensure the availability of access to safe water for everyone, visit Water.org at http://water.org or World Water Council at http://worldwatercouncil.org/.


EPA E-Manifest Implementation Update

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By E. Lynn Grayson

 

On October 5, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (PDF), which authorizes the EPA to implement a national electronic manifest system. Commonly referred to as "e-Manifest," this national system is envisioned to be implemented by the EPA in partnership with industry and states.

EPA issued the e-manifest final rule, effective August 6, 2014, authorizing the use of electronic hazardous waste manifests that will become available when EPA establishes a new electronic hazardous waste manifest system (79 Fed. Reg. 7518, February 7, 2014). The modification will provide waste handlers with the option to complete, sign, transmit, and store manifest information electronically in the electronic system. States that currently receive and collect paper manifest copies will receive copies of manifest data electronically from the system.

EPA Connect, the Agency's official blog, provided some updates this week on the status of the e-Manifest implementation process. EPA reported that an important next step is to establish the initial fee structure for users of the system. EPA is working with states and stakeholders to create this fee proposal. According to the blog, EPA anticipates the proposed rule establishing the fee model for the system to be available for public comment by May 2016.

When implemented, EPA estimates this rule will impact 160,000 entities in at least 45 industries that ship off-site, transport, or receive approximately 5.9 million tons of RCRA hazardous wastes annually. These entities currently use between 4.6 and 5.6 million EPA Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifests.

Further insights and regulatory developments are detailed at http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/transportation/manifest/e-man.htm.


EPA Proposes New Nanoscale Chemical Reporting Rule

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA has proposed one-time reporting and record keeping requirements on nanoscale chemical substances in the marketplace. The proposed rule contains a 90-day public comment period. After the comment period, EPA will review and consider those comments before issuing any final rule. EPA also anticipates a public meeting during the comment period to obtain additional public input.

Specifically, EPA proposed requiring companies that manufacture or process (or intend to manufacture or process) chemical substances in the nanoscale range to electronically report information, including the specific chemical identity, production volume, methods of manufacture, processing, use, exposure and release information, and available health and safety data. The proposed rule would apply to chemical substances that have unique properties related to their size. The proposed rule contains exclusions for chemical substances in the nanoscale range that would not be subject to the rule. In addition to this proposed one-time reporting on chemical substances manufactured or processed as nanoscale materials already in commerce, EPA currently reviews new chemical substances manufactured or processed as nanomaterials prior to introduction into the marketplace to ensure that they are safe.

Chemical substances that have structures with dimensions at the nanoscale -- approximately 1-100 nanometers (nm) -- are commonly referred to as nanoscale materials or nanoscale substances. A human hair is approximately 80,000-100,000 nanometers wide. These chemical substances may have properties different than the same chemical substances with structures at a larger scale, such as greater strength, lighter weight, and greater chemical reactivity. These enhanced or different properties give nanoscale materials a range of potentially beneficial public and commercial applications; however, the same special properties may cause some of these chemical substances to behave differently than conventional chemicals under specific conditions.

EPA is proposing this new requirement under TSCA Section 8(a) to determine if further action, including additional information collection, is needed.

More information about the proposed rule, including the Federal Register notice, EPA fact sheet and press release, are available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/nano/.


World Water Day 2015

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Designated by the UN General Assembly in 1993, World Water Day is celebrated each March 22nd. This year's theme for World Water Day is "Water and Sustainable Development." It is about how water links to all areas we need to consider to create a more sustainable future.

According to UN Water, a day for water and water for sustainable development includes the following considerations:

  1. Water is health – clean hands can save your life.
  2. Water is nature – ecocystems lie at the heart of the global water cycle.
  3. Water is urbanization – every week one million people move into cities.
  4. Water is industry – more water is used to manufacture a car than fill a swimming pool.
  5. Water is energy – water and energy are inseparable friends.
  6. Water is food – to produce two steaks, you need 15,000 liters of water.
  7. Water is equality – every day women spend millions of hours carrying water.

http://www.unwater.org/


FY2016 EPA Budget Proposal

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By E. Lynn Grayson

 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding EPA's proposed 2016 fiscal year budget. EPA's 2016 fiscal year from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. EPA is seeking an increase of $453M over the FY2015 budget to $8.6B proposed in FY2016.

FY2016 budget highlights include funding to address:

1.     Making a visible difference in communities across the country—efforts focused on coordination with other federal agencies, states, tribes and stakeholders to provide community support for needed assistance and support for capacity building, planning, and implementation of environmental protection programs;

2.    Addressing climate change and improving air quality—actions to reduce climate change and support the President's Climate Action Plan including new proposed funding for greenhouse gases through commonsense standards, guidelines and voluntary programs;

3.    Protecting the Nation's Waters—focus on to ensure waterways are clean and drinking water is safe because there are far reaching effects when rivers, lakes and oceans become polluted;

4.    Taking steps to improve chemical facility safety—support to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities and responders;

5.    Protecting our lands—continued work to cleanup hazardous and nonhazardous wastes that can migrate to air, groundwater and surface water and soils;

6.    Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution—expand chemical safety programs and enhance quality, accessibility and usefulness of information about commercial chemicals and pesticides;

7.    Continuing EPA's commitment to innovative research & development—R&D efforts to address the interplay between air quality, climate change, water quality, healthy communities and chemical safety;

8.    Supporting state and tribal partners—new funds for categorical grants and setting the bar for continuing partnership efforts with states and tribes;

9.    Maintaining a forward looking and adaptive EPA—emphasis on physical footprint including space optimization and essential renovations of laboratories throughout the U.S.; and,

10.    Reducing and eliminating programs—elimination of programs that have served their purpose and accomplished their mission for a cost savings of $44M.

For more information on the proposed budget, visit http://www2.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy2016.