Toxic Release Inventory Reporting Due Soon: Is Your Facility Exempt?

[tweetmeme]If you don’t know whether your facility is required to submit Toxic Chemical Release forms you should find out FAST!  Affected facilities must complete a separate Form R or Form A for each listed chemical or chemical category that is manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in excess of the threshold amount annually.  Fortunately for everyone EPA has developed TRI-MEweb software for Form R submissions which greatly reduces the time necessary for compliance.

Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 was enacted to facilitate emergency planning, to minimize the effects of potential toxic chemical accidents, and to provide the public with information on releases of toxic chemicals in their communities.  As a result the TRI database was created which contains detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories that over 23,000 industrial and other facilities manage through disposal or other releases, recycling, energy recovery, or treatment.  The data are collected from industries including manufacturing, metal and coal mining, electric utilities, commercial hazardous waste treatment, and other industrial sectors.

TRI-MEweb is a Web-based application that can be accessed anywhere with a connection to the Internet.

TRI-MEweb

  • TRI-MEweb allows facilities to file a paperless report, significantly reduce data errors, and receive instant receipt confirmation of their submissions.
  • Certifying officials must register for the application that requires the printing, completion, and mailing of an electronic signature agreement.
  • TRI-MEweb submissions are NOT available for trade secret claims.  Facilities must continue to submit hard copies of the TRI reporting forms and trade secret substantiation form.

Don’t click through to the EPA TRI-MEweb site just yet.  Although EPA has identified more than 650 chemicals and chemical categories that are subject to the TRI annual reporting requirement there are exemptions you should be aware of that just may eliminate the need for a last minute scramble to complete you TRI reporting prior to July 1st.

Exemptions to TRI reporting:

Certain uses of listed toxic chemicals are exempt:

  • Use as a structural component of the facility.
  • Use in routine janitorial or facility grounds maintenance (including phenol in bathroom disinfectants and pesticides in lawn care products). Listed chemicals used in facility equipment maintenance and cleaning or maintenance activities that are integral to the production process at the facility are not exempt (e.g., herbicides used on an aboveground storage tank berm).
  • Employees’ personal use (foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc.).
  • Use of products containing toxic chemicals for facility motor vehicle maintenance.
  • Use of toxic chemicals contained in intake water (used for processing or noncontact cooling) or in intake air (used either as compressed air or for combustion).

The de minimis exemption applies where the quantity of a listed chemical in a mixture or other trade-name product is either:

  • An OSHA-defined carcinogen present at a concentration of less than 0.1 percent by weight
  • Any other listed chemical present at a concentration of less than 1 percent by weight

There are other exemptions as well such as those that are manufactured, processed, or used in a laboratory.  However all of these exemptions have limitations and I strongly encourage you to click through to the EPA TRI FAQ website to learn more.

More:  EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program

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EPRCA Tier II Reports born from Tragedy

[tweetmeme]In the early morning of December 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant near Bhopal, India released approximately forty tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) into the air. The gas quickly spread over the ground and, in the end, killed upwards to 5,000 people and injured 50,000 more. The other place that Union Carbide manufactured MIC was at its Institute plant in West Virginia. Following the Bhopal release Union Carbide elected to shut down production of the deadly chemical at its West Virginia location until it could make $500 million worth of safety improvements.

New Safety Programs

Approximately four months after completion of the safety improvement program, 500 gallons of highly toxic aldchiloxin (and MIC) leaked from the plant. Although no one was killed, 134 people living around the plant were treated at local hospitals.

Both the Bhopal and West Virginia incidents highlighted the serious nature of modern-day chemical production — no matter what safety precautions are taken, no matter how well trained a plant’s employees may be, and no matter how prepared a plant may be to handle an emergency situation, accidents can still occur and people may die.

Congress Acts

With thousands of chemical accidents occurring in the United States within a five year period in the mid-1980s, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986, ushering in a new wave of regulations and reporting requirements designed to alert the surrounding communities of the dangers posed at chemical facilities in the U.S.

To implement EPCRA, Congress required each state to appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). The SERCs are required to divide their states into Emergency Planning Districts and to name a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for each district.

The facilities covered by EPCRA requirements are now required to submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to their LEPC, as well as their SERC, and their local fire department annually by March 1st.

The reports known as “Tier II Reports,” require basic facility identification information, employee contact information for both emergencies and non-emergencies, and information about chemicals stored or used at the facility.
Under the EPCRA, SERCs and LEPCs are charged with four primary responsibilities:

  1. Write emergency plans to protect the public from chemical accidents;
  2. Establish procedures to warn and, if necessary, evacuate the public in case of an emergency;
  3. Provide citizens and local governments with information about hazardous chemicals and accidental releases of chemicals in their communities; and
  4. Assist in the preparation of public reports on annual release of toxic chemicals into the air, water, and soil.

Tier II Reporting Information

What facilities are covered?

  • Any facility required under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to maintain material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals stored or used in the work place. Facilities with chemicals in quantities that equal or exceed the following thresholds must report:
  • For Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) , either 500 pounds or the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), whichever is lower
  • For gasoline (all grades combined) at a retail gas station, the threshold level is 75,000 gallons (or approximately 283,900 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
  • For diesel fuel (all grades combined) at a retail gas station, the threshold level is 100,000 gallons (or approximately 378,500 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and the tank(s) was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
  • For all other hazardous chemicals, 10,000 pounds.

Tier2 Submit Software

  • EPA has recently developed ‘Tier2 Submit,’ an online software program designed to help facilities prepare an electronic chemical inventory report. Although many states accept Tier2 Submit, some states such as Missouri do not.

Certification

  • The owner or operator or the officially designated representative of the owner or operator must certify that all information included in the Tier Two submission is true, accurate, and complete.

Penalties:

  • Any owner or operator who violates any Tier II reporting requirements shall be liable to the United States for civil penalty of up to $27,500 per day for each such violation.
  • Although each day a violation continues shall constitute a separate violation it has been EPA’s policy not to enforce the daily penalty on those companies making a good faith effort to come into compliance with the reporting requirements.

For more information on EPA Tier II reporting requirements visit their website.  Specific state requirements links can also be found there.

Is Your Facility Ready for a Compliance Inspection in 2012?

[tweetmeme]It’s already 2012 and now is a great time to review your facility’s environmental, health & safety compliance standing.   You should be aware of your ability to withstand an inspection from OSHA or EPA this year.   Typically, an inspector will assess the effectiveness of your facility’s environmental and safety programs by asking EHS, operations, and maintenance staff to answer a series of general questions.   Once they start getting inconsistent, or a lot of  “I don’t know”  answers they know they have a ‘live on on the hook’!   It’s only a matter of time before they reel you in.   You need to stay ahead of the game.

Here’s how you can make the inspection of your facility go as smoothly as possible:

Tips for a Smooth Inspection

  • Cooperate – The most important advice to follow during an inspection is to cooperate with the inspector.   The inspector may equate noncooperation with regulatory noncompliance.

  • Accompany the inspector – The facility owner, operator, or workplace supervisor should accompany the inspector during the inspection to take notes on the inspector’s comments. When accompanying the inspector, pay particular attention to questions that the inspector asks you or employees about workplace health and safety or waste management practices.
  • Correct errors – It is also important, if possible or if requested by the inspector, to correct regulatory problems, such as a malfunctioning chemical-treatment-process machine or a minor spill, during the inspection.
  • Duplicate samples and records – Should the inspector take samples; you should take a samples the same time so that you have nearly identical samples.  Ask the inspector what test or analysis the sample will undergo and have the same test or analysis conducted independently on your sample for your own records.

Should the inspector request copies of corporate records, either make the copies then, or if the request requires a substantial amount of copying, agree to a schedule to provide them to the inspector.   Keep a copy of everything you provide to the inspector.   The inspector may also take pictures of relevant plant equipment or processes.   You should take the same pictures from the same angle.

Are you ready to answer these questions?

  • How are EHS regulatory requirements determined and communicated?
  • How is compliance monitored?
  • What is the effectiveness of the internal communication systems, particularly under spill or release scenarios? Accidents and Injuries?
  • What is the existence and completeness of detailed process flow charts and mass balances?
  • How is noncompliance communicated to management?  What is the follow up?
  • Is environmental and safety compliance a factor in job performance evaluations for front line Supervisors?  Employees?  How about Management?
  • What is the existence and scope of an environmental and safety training programs?
  • What are the existence, scope, and maturity of the facility’s EHS management systems?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You don’t have to go through this alone!  There are a lot of valuable resources available to you on the web.   OSHA and EPA both have good resources on their websites; contact other professionals through social media such as LinkedIn Groups.  You can also contract with a professional consultant, or contact your state’s Department of Labor; many have assistance programs that can get you on the right track.   Most important though, talk to your senior management and get them to understand the importance of EHS, both from a regulatory compliance standpoint and more importantly from a good business perspective.  Be prepared to make 2012 a great year!

EPA Gets Conviction on Asbestos Training Scam

[tweetmeme]“Today, justice was served, and Albania Deleon has finally faced the consequences of her crimes…”

EPA has announced that the former owner of the country’s largest asbestos abatement training school was sentenced to prison, after having fled the United States after her trial in November 2008. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sentenced Albania Deleon, 41, formerly of Andover, Mass., to 87 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $369,015 to AIM Mutual Insurance Company.

According to the EPA, Deleon who owned and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), a certified asbestos training school located in Methuen, MA, offered training courses on a weekly basis at her Methuen offices, however, many of the recipients of the certificates never took the required course.

Instead, with Deleon’s knowledge and approval, ECT’s office employees issued certificates of course completion to thousands of individuals who did not take the course. These individuals filed the certificates with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety in order to be authorized to work in the asbestos removal industry.

According to Court documents many of the recipients were illegal aliens who wished to skip the 4-daylong course so that they would not forego a week’s pay.  Of course as already noted by others the losers in this scam were the workers who were not knowledgeable of the hazards of asbestos exposure and didn’t know how to protect themselves from unnecessary exposure in the work place.  In return for not losing one weeks pay they may face an even more uncertain future…one filled with asbestos related illnesses.  Their quality of life may be significantly altered and so to their family’s!

Some have contended that many of the untrained workers were hired by another firm Deleon owned and assigned to perform asbestos abatement and demolition, which makes this scam even worse for the customers and clients of this scam.  Their project may not have been handled within the rules and laws set out to protect them and the public from the dangers of asbestos removal projects.

From 2001 to 2006 ECT issued training certificates to over 2,000 untrained individuals.  According to the EPA Press Release, “Today’s sentence marks the final chapter in bringing Albania Deleon to justice,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Committing environmental crimes to make a profit that put workers and our communities at risk carry serious consequences.”

Deleon is the fifth environmental criminal captured since the EPA fugitive website was launched in December 2008.

EPA pulls Proposed Ozone Standard due to Economic Considerations

[tweetmeme]Citing the importance of “reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty,” President Obama took EPA’s proposed ozone standard off the table for the time being.

In a statement touting the actions the current EPA has taken under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, the president said that he cannot support the burden the proposed standard would impose as the economy recovers and requested that Jackson withdraw the draft ozone standard that would have tightened the ozone standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb.  The EPA will revisit the ozone standard in 2013

Ozone (O3) is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but at ground-level is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone has the same chemical structure whether it occurs miles above the earth or at ground-level and can be “good” or “bad,” depending on its location in the atmosphere.

According to many environmentalists this is a huge win for ‘corporate polluters’ and a huge loss for public health.  However business leaders such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others contend there’s no doubt that the standard would have thrown large swaths of the country into non-attainment, requiring businesses to obtain costly permits or technologies to comply.  The EPA’s proposal would have cost $19 billion to $90 billion, according to the White House.

“Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered,” Obama said in a statement.

For more information:  http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/

 

 

Department of Natural Resources will no longer fund local Air Quality programs

[tweetmeme]In what appears to be a cost cutting measure, Missouri Department Natural Resources has apparently notified the Kansas City Air Quality Program that it will no longer fund local air quality programs as of September 30, 2011.

In an email sent to various asbestos abatement and consultant firms throughout the Kansas City area, Christopher Smith an Enforcement Supervisor with the city of Kansas City Health Department, Air Quality Program stated that “In a nutshell our office may be closing.  This may affect future abatement projects.  The State will notify our office on how switch will be made.”

No word on whether or not this is a proposed action or a certainity at this point.  As for now it’s business as usual though.

EPA to Impose Stricter Pollution Regulations for Public Waters

[tweetmeme]The Obama Administration recently announced that it will impose stricter pollution regulation for millions of acres of wetlands, and tens of thousands of miles of streams, to prevent the dumping of mining waste and discharge of industrial pollutants into waters that feed swimming holes and drinking water supplies. Questions regarding which streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act have been in dispute for years.

EPA Administrator Lisa. P Jackson says that while the new rules will expand the waterways that fall under federal protection, it is not a massive increase. The policy change will likely affect tributaries that flow into bodies like the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md, the chair of the water and wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says the proposed guidance is intended to address the Supreme Court’s concerns in a way that will protect waters that are important to fish and wildlife habitats, flood protection, and drinking water. Once finalized, the new regulations will apply federal water quality standards to a variety of waterways, including the headwaters of lakes, as well as rivers and intermittent streams.

Some groups, including livestock owners and home builders, have argued that the new regulations would impose an economic burden. The Obama Administration will accept comments on its proposed guidance for 60 days before drafting binding rules.

read more: Washington Post

OSHA Spared Congress Cost Cutting Axe…For Now!

[tweetmeme]Last Saturday, Congress agreed to again extend federal spending by passing a short-term continuing resolution – allowing the federal government to continue operating for one additional week while details were worked out on a federal budget for the remaining six months in the FY11 federal budget.  On Tuesday, Congress began providing details on the remainder of the FY11 budget – both spending limits and cuts that would take place.

The bill provides OSHA with last year’s funding level of $558.6 million. The original proposal would have cut $99 million or 18 percent from the agency’s budget. However, while OSHA was spared from major cuts, agency will take a cut of $1.2 million because of the “across the board” 2 percent cut in federal spending. According Aaron Trippler, Government Affairs Director for AIHA, there has also been word from several OSHA insiders that the 2012 budget will encompass huge cuts, perhaps taking the agency back to 2006 spending levels.

Other Agencies according AIHA Happenings on the Hill Report:

EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a huge cut of $1.6 billion, or 16 percent. Added to that is the 2% rescission will be in addition to this.

MSHA

The bill provides MSHA with $363.8 million, an increase of $6.5 million over last year.  MSHA may also hit with the 2% across the board reduction.

NIOSH

NIOSH will take a $49 million hit for the reminder of this fiscal year.  There was some concern that this $49 million would come from the ERC and the AFF program funds.  However, sources say most of the $49 million in cuts are World Trade Center related and will not impact ERC or AFF funding.  NIOSH is also expected to face the across the board 2% cut in spending.

Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule may be Short Lived

[tweetmeme]American businesses have a common enemy: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency!  They too have a common ally: Rep. Darrell Issa (R) who happens to Chair the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  After the November elections, Rep. Issa requested from business and industry a list of rules his committee should investigate as impediments to economic recovery.  Over half of the 111 regulations cited by over 160 respondents, in the survey dealt with the EPA (click here to see the list), including those controlling greenhouse gas emissions.  But also mentioned were a range of other agency rules covering air toxic controls for industrial boilers, Clean Water Act pesticide permits, dust regulation, mountaintop mining, Chesapeake Bay pollution and ground-level ozone, or smog.

Some also want a “review and investigation” of the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rules, which according to some “pose a major obstacle for a [housing] market recovery.”  The rule requires renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet on the interior of a pre-1978 home to follow new lead safe work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and be performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.  According to the respondents to Rep. Issa’s request implementation of the LRRP rules has resulted in the following:

  • Not enough training opportunities for renovators to become certified and therefore not enough certified renovators at the time of implementation;
  • Inadequate lead test kits producing over 60 percent false positives and an EPA-estimated $200 million in unnecessary additional compliance costs;
  • Ineffective and insufficient consumer awareness programs; and
  • Woefully underestimated costs for compliance with the LRRP Rule, particularly for small businesses.

All of which has thrown the residential renovation world into chaos.  Additionally the “Opt-out” provision in the original rule was removed by EPA which by some estimates “doubled” the amount of homes subject to the rule.  The “Opt-out” provision would have allowed home owners to waive compliance with the rule, if there were no pregnant women or children under six present in the home.  This is particularly important because the lead-based paint rules currently in place by Federal and most state agencies only apply to child occupied or target housing, and not general housing.

All of this adds up to the very real possibility that the LRRP rules may be thrown out in the name of economic recovery.  Last month, President Obama issued an executive order that called for a top-to-bottom review of federal regulations to get rid of rules that are outdated and harmful to the economy.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee responded to the executive order by calling the man who is leading up that effort, House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, to testify at the panel’s first hearings, entitled “Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation,” which was aimed at policymakers to hear important testimony from the front lines of our economic recovery.

“If there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them,” Obama said in a recent address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Rep. Issa described his efforts as a congressional complement to what Obama is trying to do. 

Although this issue will revolve around the economy for sure, others insist that health and safety aren’t to be thrown out with the bath water.  “The American people sent us here not only to create jobs, but also to protect their health, welfare, and safety,” according to oversight panel ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Stay tuned….

EPA to Reject Confidentiality Claims for Chemical Identity Starting Aug. 25th

[tweetmeme]Starting August 25th, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely reject all confidentiality claims for chemical identity in health and safety studies. 

As it stands now, submitters may claim confidentiality for proprietary information within a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) submission — but should submit a detailed written explanation to substantiate all confidential business information (CBI) claims.  Also, submitters must submit a sanitized or “cleaned-up” copy of the submission for placement in the TSCA Public Docket.

Back on January 21, 2010, EPA announced this new policy in order to increase the public’s access to information on chemicals. EPA stated its intention to reject a certain type of confidentiality claim, known as Confidential Business Information (CBI), on the identity of chemicals.

For the first time in a long time, EPA will systematically review all confidentiality claims pertaining to chemical identity in any industry submissions of health and safety studies and associated data.  Such claims are routinely asserted in submissions of health and safety data under TSCA section 4 (for test rules), section 5 (for new chemicals and new uses of existing chemicals), section 8(d) (for call-ins of health and safety studies), and section 8(e) (for mandatory reporting of substantial risk information). 

Arguably the most contentious assertions come in with section 8(e) submissions.  EPA statistics indicate that, over the last 3 years, more than 40% of such 8(e) notices claim the chemical identity to be confidential. 

EPA states that it intends to respond to certain confidentiality claims regarding chemical identities in health and safety studies and in data from health and safety studies with a determination letter; “that such information is clearly not entitled to confidential treatment.” At this time, EPA says it expects to issue determination letters when the chemical identity claimed as confidential:

  1. Was submitted as part of a health and safety study, or of data from a health and safety study, submitted under TSCA that is subject to TSCA Section 14(b)(1).
  2. Does not explicitly contain process information.
  3. Does not reveal data disclosing the portion of the mixture comprised by any of the chemical substances in the mixture.

According to the EPA they are taking these steps to improve the transparency of chemical information.  Earlier EPA determined that some information previously held confidential would no longer be, and they also put the public portion of the TSCA Inventory on the internet for free availability for all (previously you had to purchase access through private vendors).