Open for Public Comment – EPA’s GHG Permitting Rule

Posted by admin on October 5th, 2009 filed in Uncategorized
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Admittedly, placing controls on greenhouse gases from industrial sources sounds like a really good idea.  It is, of course, more of the same from EPA – continual point source controls on industry, while the real culprits are the individual consumers not willing to take responsibility for their __________ [vehicle emissions, storm water runoff, household waste].  The EPA’s new GHG Tailoring Proposal (love the name – sounds like something you’d get from Brook Brothers) takes a stab at the issue of raising the Title V (T5) and PSD significance levels for GHG sources at 25,000 tons CO2e.  While this is all well and good, the real issue is buried at the back of EPA’s proposal following a rambling legal exegesis of the criteria (“absurd results” and “administrative necessity”) required to allow them to move the limit from 250 TPY to 25,000 TPY.

That issue, is “potential to emit.”  Those three little words throw EPA’s proposal into a righteous scramble that far exceeds any of the issues associated with the threshold.  The threshold, after all, could be increased with one stroke of the pen by Congress inserting a single sentence into the Clean Air Act.  Not so the PTE issue.  You see, it’s like this – unlike emissions of the other criteria pollutants, industrial facilities burning natural gas or other fuels for heat (including convenience heat), facilities burning complex solvents in pollution control devices, and facilities using GHG-containing compounds are likely using that equipment at a fraction of it “rated capacity.”  What PTE really is is:  Rated Capacity (in pounds CO2e per hour) * 8760 hours (nominal number of hours in a year for permitting purposes).

This number is fairly simple to compute for a boiler (such as are used at power plants or some industrial facilities), it can be obtained for space heaters, engines, and generators. Where the PTE argument breaks down is in calculations for sources such as steel or glass plants that may use natural gas as a backup or secondary fuel, whose fuel consumption depends heavily on market, atmospheric, or other conditions. While EPA has proffered some lame proposals, such as developing source category limits, this all smacks of years of research and litigation.   In my opinion, there are hundreds, if not thousands of emissions sources with no idea how large their PTE for CO2e really is.  It’s very clear to me that EPA’s rule makers have never spent much time in an investment-cast foundry (with attendant heat treating) or a beef processing facility.

EPA’s rule places not only a burden on sources, but will also create huge external costs which will be passed on to consumers.  In the long run, it would be far cheaper and easier to charge a penny a therm more for natural gas and use those monies for the control of GHG.


Jack Frost gets nipped

Posted by admin on February 9th, 2009 filed in Uncategorized
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EPA Region 10 has continued to show its teeth (apparently the only ones in the nation) with yet another RMP fine – settling with Jack Frost Fruit Company for $100,000 in fines and a supplemental environmental project (investment in local resources) for RMP violations at its Yakima, WA facility.   Jack Frost was an example of “head in the sand” non-compliance.  While all of their neighbors were assiduously developing RMPs, they continued to insist that their system was not covered by process safety management or the RMP.  Jack Frost is just one of many enforcement cases (publicized and not) that Region 10 has brought in the past five years.

Despite receiving more than $4 million from Equilon in settlement – much of which was aimed at educating inspectors in PSM issues – WISHA continues to follow the lead of their neighbor to the south (that’s right, here in Oregon) to not visit potentially covered facilities to assess hazardous materials inventories, to review prevention programs, and to improve compliance with PSM.

Failure by OSHA and state programs to enforce PSM constitutes a competitive advantage for those companies that don’t adhere to the standards.  Many of Endeavour’s clients are at a disadvantage because of the size of their investment in a PSM program – personnel, consulting, and safety improvements.  Inspections level the playing field.  They may be painful and scary – but a robust program should survive quite well.


Reworking regulation…

Posted by admin on January 21st, 2009 filed in Carbon Trading, Federal Rulemaking
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The White House issued this memorandum this morning, putting on hold a few environmental regulations – and stiffing Stephen Johnson, even if he has decided to stay in his office at the EPA.  California’s Mary Nichols has jumped on the bandwagon, asking EPA administrator designate to initiate a review of the GHG emissions waiver for automobiles.  Could it be that science is really back?


Where the environmental market is heading – short term

Posted by admin on January 21st, 2009 filed in Carbon Trading
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This interesting cartoon could apply to the environmental industry as well as Alex’ bank.  Robust earnings in the final quarter of 2008 and into the first weeks of January shouldn’t be confused with the long term effects of this economic downturn.  Budgets drawn up in the fat last days of 2007 will suddenly be replaced with stark new realities.  In my opinion, the timing of these problems will be related to the size of the company.  Smaller firms have already moved – cutting costs and settling in for a long winter’s night.  Bigger firms will be like battleships – harder to turn around.  Unfortunately, consultancies may find that the depth of cuts by the big firms is much greater than any estimates they may have had in mind.

Along the same lines, we have to expect a shift in the priorities of our clients.  While it may not be organic vegetables, carbon emissions will likely be on the platter of luxuries that are no longer a focus for US companies.  Additionally, the economic downturn will have a signifcant effect – reducing carbon footprints – just by virtue of reduction in hours (less power usage) and reductions in production.


New SPCC Rules give a break to Retail Operations

Posted by admin on January 6th, 2009 filed in Federal Rulemaking, Regulatory Compliance, Retail Compliance
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With the finalization of the new SPCC rules on December 5th, EPA has closed the chapter on one of the longest and most convoluted rulemaking efforts ever.  The product of dozens of failed proposals, law suits, and an evolving marketplace, the new rules provide much needed flexibility for retailers caught up in the SPCC (Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures) Planning requirements.

Smaller oil storage facilities have the ability to be designated as “Tier I” facilities, removing some of the compliance burden.  Tier I facilities have the following characteristics:

  • Less than 10,000 gallons of oil in aboveground storage;
  • No container larger than 5,000 gallons; and
  • No reportable off-site discharges of oil in the past three years (more detail in the rule package).

In addition, the facilities must meet the SPCC requirements for secondary containment (i.e., they can not use equivalent engineering methods).

Meeting the Tier I criteria will prove to be a bonanza for telecommunications facilities, retailers, and those facilities having only an emergency generator on site throwing them into the SPCC requirements.  Tier I facilities can complete and self-certify a template SPCC plan provided by the EPA (Appendix G).  Being able to complete the Tier I template will greatly reduce the paperwork burden for more than 100,000 covered facilities, nationwide.

Endeavour has worked closely with retailers and telecommunications companies on the preparation of SPCC plans and training employees in their responsibilities.  For more information on these requirements, contact us.


A New Year – A New Outlook

Posted by admin on January 6th, 2009 filed in Regulatory Compliance
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Happy New Year to all my readers – although 2009 is starting out with dire economic predictions and challenging conditions for all businesses, it may prove to be a banner year for environmental, health, and safety compliance.  The changes to the Bush administration’s policies, especially in the health and safety arena, may provfe a challenge to those of us who make our living complying with regulations.  While enforecement under the current administration has not plumetted, it has slipped away and appears to be focused on high-profile non-compliances, often those resulting from incident investigations.

The Obama adminstration should provide some clarity in the OSHA arena, but it will definitely make strides in the environmental arena with the influence of clear environmental advocates such as Browner and Jackson.  The EPA, more so than OSHA, is affected by the policies as carried out in the regions.  I would hope that 2009 brings change at the head of several regions – leading to more focus within the agency on compliance with the existing requirements of environmental law.

Whatever changes are out there, I’m looking forward to working with you all to provide the most productive environmental solutions to make business move ahead in the next four years.


OSHA Inspections – Top Violations

Posted by admin on December 15th, 2008 filed in Regulatory Compliance
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For those of my readers who attended my session at the Northwest Environmental Conference (www.nwec.org) last week – I am posting this recently blogged list of OSHA top violations for the 2008 Federal Fiscal year.  Following a common pair of construction violations (scaffolding and fall protection) the General Industry favorite – Hazard Communication – tops the list.  With all of the tools available to employers to meet the requirements of the HazCom standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), it is difficult to understand how this rule continues to provide OSHA (and state programs) with such easy pickins for citation.

Employers need to get a handle on this issue – an audit of the implementation of HazCom programs – and a training session for all employees – shouldn’t take more than a few hours per site, nor should it cost more than a $1,000 or so – cheap insurance given the importance of this issue.

A solid HazCom program provides spectacular benefits for employers, especially those concerned about employee exposure issues.  A workforce educated at work is far better than one educated by tort or class action attorneys.


Dry Storeroom No. 1 – Richard Fortey

Posted by admin on December 14th, 2008 filed in What we're reading
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On the advice of Olivia Judson of the NY Times I ventured forth to read this book, imagining a series of exciting tales about the people and the specimens in the Natural History Museum – London.  This museum has been a favorite of mine, ever since a visit at age 11 in 1972, followed by many more as an adult.  Of course, the museum has evolved, and this book is more about that evolution than stories of the curators.  The book is at turns charming and cranky – the author seems to believe that the museum was in a better place when it was just a collection of drawers of type specimens with bon vivant collectors ranging the world.

Having spent my undergraduate years measuring the size of coral heads on paleontological specimens and visiting numerous natural history museums – I can sympathize with Fortey on the basic points, but admit that museums must continue to innovate.  Scientific ignorance is a disease and museums are on the forefront.  It’s not how many species we can idenifty this week, but how many we will save by treating the environment properly.


Another Western Domino of Cap and Trade

Posted by admin on December 14th, 2008 filed in Carbon Trading, Washington Rulemaking
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Yet another domino has fallen in the western governors’ inevitable march to universal cap-and-trade.  Acting in advance of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and before the Obama administration has had the opportunity to comment on a national program, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has added another piece of cap-and-trade legislation to the pot.  A discussion of the proposal can be found in this excellent article by the Marten Law Group.

Why the rush to cap-and-trade?  Gregoire doesn’t even have the cover of a re-election effort as does Gov. Schwarzenegger – she is off a fresh win, bloodied but unbowed, over Dino Rossi in the November contest.  Cap-and-trade efforts are not simple – they require infrastructure, which will likely be provided by signing a contract with a third-party whose employees reside somewhere outside of Washington (can you see the taxpayer dollars going out of state) and will likely result in a program that will be fully formed only to be overridden by the federal program the Obama administration is likely to implement.

A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions is not as easy as proponents think – they are dreaming of Acid Rain (Clean Air Act – Title IV) successes, when no clear cut technology exists to remove carbon from the utility stream.  Solutions in the carbon cap-and-trade markets will likely be state subsidized energy reduction programs (e.g., turning lights off at the amazon.com HQ), which will be made doubly hard to account for with the recent economic slowdown (i.e., how much is a real savings and how much is due to reductions in economic activity).

Our Western states should have a place at the federal table and target 2012 implementation (just as proposed) of a rational cap-and-trade system.


It may sound Silly – but…

Posted by admin on November 17th, 2008 filed in Retail Compliance
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The EPA recently reached a settlement with Dollar Stores, Inc. for the sale of “Zany String,” which contained R-22 (Freon) which is a Class II ozone depleting substance.  Not only did the settlement cost Dollar 120,000 of their hard earned items, but they also removed 1.6 million cans of the product from their shelves for destruction.  As any retailer who has been involved in the logistics of a recall can tell you, this is a difficult situation.

What could Dollar have done better?  Developing a system to track the components of every product placed on a retail shelf may sound daunting, but several retailers have taken this step and are integrating chemical safety into their procurement process.  Moves are afoot to include this data in the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).  Feel free to contact Endeavour to learn more about these efforts.