2018 Future of Global Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing Market to 2025

Research and Markets recently published a research report entitled The Global Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing market outlook report. The report covers from 2019 to 2025 and is a comprehensive work on Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing industry. This research report provides complete insight into the penetration of Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing across applications worldwide. Emphasis is given on the market drivers, restraints and potential growth opportunities. Detailed strategic analysis review of the Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing market together with Porter’s five forces analysis is provided for global Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing market.

The report assesses the 2018 market size in terms of market revenues based on the average prices of Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing products worldwide. The report also presents a 6-year outlook on the basis of anticipated growth rates (CAGR) for different types of Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing and the industry as a whole. Further, detailed pricing analysis of products is provided in the report.

The research work also explores how Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing manufacturers are adapting to the changing market conditions through key market strategies. Further, company to company comparison (Company benchmarking) and Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing product-to-product comparison (Product benchmarking) are included in the research work. Business, SWOT and financial Profiles of five leading companies in global Conventional and Rapid Environmental Testing market are included in the report.

A 2018 market report on the environmental testing industry by Esticast Research & Consulting predict a CAGR 6.6% during the forecast period of 2018 to 2025. The report also states that the market for environmental testing appears fragmented and fiercely competitive due to many large and small players churning the competition in the market.  Through the strategic partnership, acquisition, expansion, product & technology launch, and collaboration, these players try to gain a competitive edge.

The Esticast market report states that one driver behind the growth of the environmental testing market is the surging trend of health consciousness among the people. In addition, government authorities are posing strict regulations regarding environmental protection, with an aim to survive in a healthy environment. The report also predicts that environmental testing market to offer lucrative opportunities to the existing and new market players due to the privatization of environmental testing services.

A few of the major players in the environmental testing marketing include Eurofins Scientific SE, Suburban Testing Labs, Agilent Technologies Inc., SCS Global Services, Bureau Veritas S.A., SYNLAB, R J Hill Laboratories Limited, TÜV SÜD, ALS Limited, Intertek, and Pace Analytical.

For more information please Research and Markets report, click on:
https://www.researchandmarkets.com/publication/mrlxu9n/4750967



Canada: Minimum Relief From Minimum Fines Ontario (Environment, Conservation And Parks) v. Henry Of Pelham Inc.

Article by Peter Brady and Leah Whitworth, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

In the recent decision of Ontario (Environment, Conservation and Parks) v. Henry of Pelham Inc., the Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA“) reversed the decision of the Ontario Court of Justice (“ONCJ“) to relieve Henry of Pelham Inc. (“HPI“) of the mandatory minimum fine for a first-time water pollution offence under the Ontario Water Resources Act  (“OWRA“).1 

On November 7, 2014, a St. Catherines resident reported to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (the “Ministry“) that a pond on his property had turned black. Upon immediate investigation, the Ministry confirmed the discolouration and detected an organic odour stemming from the pond. As a creek leading to the subject pond runs through a vineyard owned by HPI, the Ministry met with HPI personnel to discuss the incident. HPI indicated it was possible that cattle manure and grape pomace spread on their land, but not yet incorporated into the soil, had entered the creek through a tile drain.2

Aerial View of the Henry of Pelham Vinyard (Photo Credit: HPI)

HPI was charged and pled guilty to an offence under s. 30(1) of the OWRA, which specifically prohibits discharging a material into any water that may impair its quality or the quality of any other water. The colour and odour of the subject pond met the test of “water deemed to be impaired” under s. 1(3)(c) of the OWRA, which occurs when a material or its derivative enters water, directly or indirectly, and causes or may cause a degradation in the appearance, taste or odour of the water.3

While offences under s. 30(1) are subject to a minimum fine of $25,000, on the invitation of HPI, the trial judge relied on s. 59(2) of the Provincial Offences Act (“POA“) to impose a fine of only $600. Section 59(2) provides courts with discretionary authority to impose a fine less than a declared minimum, if the imposition of such minimum fine would be unduly oppressive or otherwise contrary to the interests of justice.4

On appeal of sentence by the Crown, HPI’s fine was increased to $5,000. While the ONCJ found that the trial judge erred in finding certain circumstances as mitigating (namely, the Crown’s decision to prosecute under Part III of the OWRA (which prescribes harsher penalties than Part I) and HPI’s lack of prior convictions), HPI was once again granted relief from the minimum fine under s. 59(2) of the POA. The ONCJ determined the $25,000 fine to be “patently unfair”, given the low severity of the incident, the Crown’s weak case and HPI’s guilty plea. The ONCJ also considered HPI’s lack of prior convictions, not as a mitigating factor but rather a circumstance that brought this offence into the “exceptional” category whereby relief from the minimum fine was warranted.5

Allowing the Crown’s second sentence appeal, the ONCA varied the sentence and imposed the minimum fine of $25,000. The ONCA determined the ONCJ inappropriately cited HPI’s guilty plea on the Crown’s weak case as a mitigating factor and undermined the purpose of the OWRA, as the circumstances of HPI’s offence did not meet the threshold of “exceptional” that is necessary to warrant a departure from the minimum fine.

The ONCA noted that while the terms “unduly oppressive” and “in the interests of justice”, in s.59(2) of the POA, do not have a settled core meaning, they must be understood in the context of the Legislature’s decision to promote deterrence in the public welfare sphere through the imposition of minimum fines. The ONCA held that discretion to provide relief from a minimum fine may only be exercised by courts in truly exceptional circumstances, as the exercise of such discretion too readily would undermine the deterrence-based purpose of public welfare legislation. As a fine will generally only meet the “unduly oppressive” threshold when it imposes personal financial hardship, relief under this prong will normally be limited to individuals. Corporations will thus be limited to relief under the “otherwise not in the interests of justice” prong. While “interests of justice” allows for broader considerations, the ONCJ cautioned that these concerns must always be balanced against the interests of the community in imposing the minimum fine. Unless the scale tips in favour of the party seeking relief, the minimum fine must be imposed.6

The ONCA was careful to note that under both prongs, discretion must always be exercised within the constraints of the statutory scheme and never arbitrarily. Judges do not have power to provide relief from a minimum fine that is simply “unfair”, as unfairness is not a “freestanding test” that triggers relief under s. 59(2) of the POA.7

While the facts of the case stem from the s. 30(1) offence under the OWRA, the ONCA decision provides commentary on minimum fines in the regulatory context generally (e.g. Environmental Protection Act (“EPA“), Liquor Licence Act, etc.). 

In supporting a very strict application of the use of s. 59(2) to relieve against a minimum penalty, the ONCA provides the justification that the minimum penalty regimes (e.g. s.109 of the OWRA, but see also s.187(4) of the EPA) apply to the “more serious offences”. While it is correct that minimum penalties are triggered for some serious offences, there are several categories of offences that also trigger harsh minimum penalties in factual circumstances that are objectively environmentally trivial.  Consider, for example, a slight exceedance of a numerical limit in an Environmental Compliance approval where there is no impact in any way on the natural environment. Such an offence would trigger the minimum penalty sections.

While the ONCA is correct to be vigilant of situations where judges may reverse the intention of the Legislature, care should be taken not to limit judicial discretion to such a degree that relief from minimum penalties is effectively unavailable.  Section 59(2) of the POA was equally enacted by the legislature with a purpose in mind.  Trial judges and justices are best suited, having heard the evidence of witnesses, to assess the “interests of justice” and yes, fairness.

Footnote

1 2018 ONCA 999 (“Henry of Pelham“); R.S.O. 1990, c. O.40.

2 Henry of Pelham at paras 6-7.

3 Ibid at paras 9-10.

4 R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33; Ibid at paras 11-13.

5 Ibid at paras 19-22.

6 Ibid at paras 52-57.

7 Ibid at paras 61-62.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

This articles was republished with the permission of the authors. It was first published on the McCarthy Tétrault LLP website.

______________________________________

About the Authors

Peter Brady is a partner in the McCarthy Tétrault LLP Litigation and Mining Groups and co-head of the firm’s National Environmental, Regulatory & Aboriginal Group. He brings vast experience in Environmental law, extractive industry projects, occupational health and safety law, and anti-corruption compliance to McCarthy Tétrault. Peter advises and represents clients in all legal aspects of regulatory litigation, with particular emphasis in the areas of environmental law, occupational health & safety law and mining law.

Leah Whitworth is an associate in the McCarthy Tétrault LLP Business Law Group in Vancouver. She maintains a general corporate and commercial practice, which includes mergers and acquisitions, secured lending, private equity and investments. Leah represents clients in various industries, including financial services, infrastructure and technology. She has experience advising clients on a variety of corporate transactions, including asset and share transactions, private placements and bond offerings.

Provincial Environmental Obligations Prevail Over Federal Bankruptcy Laws – Supreme Court of Canada

by Paul Manning, Manning Environmental Law

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of Orphan Well Association, et al. v. Grant Thornton Limited, et al.Orphan Well Association, et al. v. Grant Thornton Limited, et al. 

The decision writes another chapter in the long running saga of whether a company’s environmental regulatory obligations survive bankruptcy and, in particular, whether the company’s trustee in bankruptcy can disclaim an asset so as to avoid environmental liability. (See our blog post The Non-Polluter Pays: Creditor Roulette and Director Liability)

The Supreme Court has now decided in Orphan Well that, after going bankrupt, an oil and gas company must  fulfill provincial environmental obligations before paying its creditors.

Background

Redwater was an Alberta oil and gas company, which owned over a hundred wells, pipelines, and facilities when it went bankrupt in 2015.

Alberta has provincial laws requiring oil and gas companies to obtain a licence to operate. As part of the licence, companies have to “abandon” wells, pipelines, and facilities when they are done. This means permanently taking these structures down. They also have to “reclaim” the land by cleaning it up. Companies cannot transfer licences without permission from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which they won’t receive if they haven’t met their responsibilities.

Most of Redwater’s wells were dry when it went bankrupt. Dismantling the sites and restoring the land would have cost millions of dollars more than they were worth. To avoid paying those costs, the the trustee in Orphan Well decided to disclaim (i.e. not to take responsibility for) the redundant wells and sites under the BIA. The trustee wanted to sell the productive sites to pay Redwater’s creditors.

The AER said that this wasn’t allowed under the BIA or provincial law and ordered the trustee to dismantle the disowned sites. The trustee argued that even if the AER was correct, the provincial abandonment orders were only provable claims under the BIA. In this case, this meant the money would first go to pay Redwater’s creditors.

The Supreme  Court’s Decision

There were two main legal issues before the Supreme Court. The first was whether the BIA allowed the trustee disclaim the sites it didn’t want take responsibility for. The second was whether the provincial orders to remove structures from the land were provable claims under the BIA. If they were, that would mean the payment order set up in the BIA applied. Only money left, if any, after those payments were made, could be used to pay for taking the sites down.

The trial judge had ruled that the trustee was allowed to disclaim the disowned sites and the abandonment costs were only provable claims in the bankruptcy. The majority of judges at the Alberta Court of Appeal hearing had agreed.

The majority of judges at the Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that the trustee could not disclaim  the disowned sites. It said the BIA was meant to protect trustees from having to pay for a bankrupt estate’s environmental claims with their own money. It did not mean Redwater’s estate could avoid its environmental obligations.

The majority also said the abandonment costs were not “provable claims”. These costs weren’t debts requiring payments; they were duties to the public and nearby landowners. This put the abandonment costs outside the BIA’s payment order scheme and as such, the majority ruled, there was no conflict between the federal and provincial laws.

(The minority of judges at the Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that there was a genuine conflict between the federal and provincial laws and the BIA being the federal law should prevail over the provincial regulations. Where a valid provincial law conflicts with a valid federal law, the federal law will normally prevail under the constitutional law “doctrine of paramountcy.”)

As the trustee had already sold or given up all of Redwater’s assets, the money from the sales was held “in trust” by the court during the lawsuit. This money must now be used to abandon and reclaim the land before anything is paid to any of Redwater’s creditors.

Click here for the full decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Orphan Well.

_________________________________________________________________

Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focused on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law. 

Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of the World’s Leading Environmental Lawyers and one of the World’s Leading Climate Change Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal. This article is only as a general guide and is not legal advice.

U.S. EPA fines for polluters at lowest level in two decades

As reported in Reuters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued $72 million in civil penalties to polluters last year, the lowest level in at least two decades when adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis of agency data.

A similar report by VOX in 2018, stated that a February 2018 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a watchdog group that advocates for enforcement of environmental laws, the amount of fines collected in 2017 by the EPA plummeted compared to the agency under the past three presidents in their first year in office, as seen below. 

(Credit: Christina Animashaun)

Environmental advocates called the level of fines a symptom of the Trump administration’s pro-fossil-fuel agenda. The EPA rejected that assertion and said it was using “all the tools” at its disposal to deter pollution.

The analysis, conducted by President Barack Obama’s former EPA assistant administrator, Cynthia Giles, and first reported by the Washington Post, showed civil fines for polluters during 2018 at $72 million, the lowest level since at least 1994.

Over the previous 20 years, EPA had issued a wide range of fine totals, ranging from a low of $86 million in 2007 to over $6 billion during Obama’s final year in office – a massive outlier because of a settlement the EPA finalized with BP (BP.L) over its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The median level of the EPA’s annual fines during that period was about $155 million, according to the data, which Giles shared with Reuters.

The EPA said it was not giving polluters any breaks, and cited a recent $305 million settlement with Fiat Chrysler (FCAU.N) over emissions violations.

“Let there be no mistake — EPA enforcement will continue to correct non-compliance using all the tools at its disposal, including imposing civil penalties to maintain a level playing field and deter future misconduct,” said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

U.S.: Opportunity for Environmental R&D Funds for Small & Large Businesses

On January 29th 2019,  the U.S. Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the U.S. Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) released a solicitation for both small and large businesses to competitively fund research and development for environmental research.

The Department of Defense (DoD) SERDP Office is interested in receiving white papers for research focusing in the areas of Environmental Restoration, Munitions Response, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms technologies. The ESTCP Office is interested in receiving white papers for innovative technology demonstrations that address DoD environmental and installation energy requirements as candidates for funding.

SERDP supports environmental research relevant to the management and mission of the DoD and supports efforts that lead to the development and application of innovative environmental technologies or methods that improve the environmental performance of DoD by improving outcomes, managing environmental risks, and/or reducing costs or time required to resolve environmental problems.

Awardees under this Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) will be selected through a multi-stage review process. The white paper review step allows interested organizations to submit research white papers for Government consideration without incurring the expense of a full proposal. Based upon the white paper evaluation by SERDP, each of the white paper submitters will be notified as to whether SERDP requests or does not request the submission of a full proposal. As noted in the instructions located on the SERDP website, evaluation criteria for white papers are Technical Merit and SERDP Relevance.

Instructions in the links below pertain to the submission of white papers responding to the SERDP BAA for Environmental Research and Development.  This BAA is for Private Sector Organizations. White papers submitted must be in response to a topic listed in the instructions on this page.

Information Related to the Broad Agency Announcement Open Solicitation

Halliburton building explosives facility in Nova Scotia

As reported by the CBC, International oil services company Halliburton is preparing to open an explosives storage facility in Nova Scotia’s Hants County next month. The location of the facility is the former barite mine, approximately two kilometres off the main road. It will be used to store explosives that are used in oil and gas exploration.

Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Explosives Safety and Security Branch (ESSB) administers the Canadian Explosives Act and Regulations. Manufacturers, importers, exporters, transporters, sellers, or users of explosives are all subject to the Explosives Act and Regulations.

The buildings the explosives will be stored in are specially designed to help contain explosions.  Emily Mir, a spokesperson for Halliburton, said the facility will be comprised of several secured storage modules surrounded by a steel fence.

Explosives will be trucked from Halliburton’s Jet Research Center in Alvarado, Texas, to the Nova Scotia storage facility, where they will be stored until they’re needed at other locations in Eastern Canada. Explosives are used to create holes in the steel pipes at the bottom of exploration wells to allow oil or gas to flow into the pipe for extraction. They are also used to help remove pipes from wells when they are no longer in production.


The approximate location of a Halliburton storage facility that will begin operating at the end of February. – Google

Local politicians and residents have raised concerns about the facility and claim they have been kept in the dark about the construction and operation of the facility.

Abraham Zebian, the warden of the Municipality of the District of West Hants, said he was caught off guard by CBC’s questions about the project, as he had little information about it. But he said he does have concerns.

“That would be concerning to any resident, to have that in their backyard,” he said to the CBC. “Disasters ring a bell to me that have happened in Nova Scotia historically. That’s the first thing you start thinking about.”

The Barite mine where the explosives storage facility will located operated for approximately 40 years and used dynamite on a daily basis. An an unfortunate blast was made in one of the large fault zones in 1970 which resulted in flooding of the mine. It ended production 1978. During its operation it was Canada’s largest barite mine and one of the largest deposits in the world. 

The previous owner of the site had a tailings pond that overflowed into the Minas Basin. After Halliburton acquired the property they demolished the old buildings and built a safer berm around the tailings pond.

Ms. Mir told the CBC that the explosives will have the same grade of charges as those used in the mining industry. The amount of explosives stored on site will depend on demand, she said, adding that Halliburton expects to store substantially less than the company’s permit allows.

Legislation

Explosives are highly regulated by Natural Resources Canada under the Explosives Act and Regulations. Transportation of the explosives would need to conform with the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations. Ms. Mir said Halliburton received all necessary permits from Canada’s Department of Natural Resources – Explosives Regulatory Division for storage.

The Nova Scotia Environment Ministry, Margaret Miller, confirmed with the CBC that no provincial permits were required for the storage site.

The company did apply to Municipality of the District of West Hants and received a permit for the facility. The permit allows for an industrial accessory steel storage building for storage relating to future offshore oil and gas industry. The permit was issued Nov. 13, 2018, for a 16-foot by 60-foot single storage building.


The explosives storage facility is being built on a piece of property near Walton, N.S., that is owned by Halliburton. (Photo Credit: Robert Short/CBC)

​Ms. Mir said Halliburton has obtained all the necessary permits for the project from Natural Resources Canada as well as a building and development permit from the municipality.

The company said it has hired for three positions at the facility, which is expected to begin operations at the end of February.


Cost of Nuclear Waste Clean-up in the U.S. estimated at $377 Billion

A new report by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing nuclear weapons in the United States at a staggering $377 billion (USD), a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.

The United States Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities. The $377 billion estimate largely reflects estimates of future costs to clean up legacy radioactive tank waste and contaminated facilities and soil. 

The U.S. GAO found that EM’s liability will likely continue to grow, in part because the costs of some future work are not yet included in the estimated liability. For example, EM’s liability does not include more than $2.3 billion in costs associated with 45 contaminated facilities that will likely be transferred to EM from other DOE programs in the future.

In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive.

Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and EM has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” 

EM relies primarily on individual sites to locally negotiate cleanup activities and establish priorities. GAO’s analysis of DOE documents identified instances of decisions involving billions of dollars where such an approach did not always balance overall risks and costs. For example, two EM sites had plans to treat similar radioactive tank waste differently, and the costs at one site—Hanford—may be tens of billions more than those at the other site. 

Each of the 16 cleanup sites sets its own priorities, which makes it hard to ensure that the greatest health and environmental risks are addressed first.
This is not consistent with recommendations by GAO and others over the last two decades that EM develop national priorities to balance risks and costs across and within its sites. 

By far the most expensive site to clean up is the Hanford site, which manufactured nuclear material for use in nuclear weapons during the Cold War. In 2017, the DoE estimated site cleanup costs at $141 billion.

Environmental liabilities are high risk because they have been growing for the past 20 years and will likely keep increasing.

EM has not developed a program-wide strategy that determines priority sites. Instead, it continues to prioritize and fund cleanup activities by individual site. Without a strategy that sets national priorities, EM lacks assurance that it is making the most cost-effective cleanup decisions across its sites.

The GAO is made three recommendations to DOE: (1) develop a program-wide strategy that outlines how it will balance risks and costs across sites; (2) submit its mandated annual cleanup report that meets all requirements; and (3) disclose the funding needed to meet all scheduled milestones called for in compliance agreements, either in required annual reports or other supplemental budget materials.

Handbook on Managing Emerging Contaminants

The term “emerging contaminants” and its multiple variants has come to refer to unregulated compounds discovered in the environment that are also found to represent a potential threat to human and ecological receptors. Such contaminants create unique and considerable challenges as the push to address them typically outpaces the understanding of their toxicity, their need for regulation, their occurrence, and techniques for treating the environmental media they affect.

Unregulated compounds that could be potential issues continually surface as detection technology improves, driving the need to more quickly evolve our understanding, technology, and appropriate response options to address them. It is clear that conquering this challenge will play a role in protecting our quality of life.

In Emerging Contaminants Handbook, published by CRC Press, editors Caitlin H. Bell, Margaret Gentile, Erica Kalve, Ian Ross, and John Horst review the latest insights on emerging contaminant occurrence, regulation, characterization, and treatment techniques. The goal is to serve as a primer for deepening your emerging contaminant acumen in navigating their management where they may be encountered.

Use Emerging Contaminants Handbook to:

  • Explore the definition, identification, and life cycle of emerging contaminants.
  • Review current information on sources, toxicology, regulation, and new tools for characterization and treatment of:
    • 1,4-Dioxane (mature in its emerging contaminant life cycle)
    • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs; a newer group of emerging contaminants)
    • Hexavalent chromium (former emerging contaminant with evolving science)
    • 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (progressing in its emerging contaminant life cycle)
  • Examine opportunities in managing emerging contaminants to help balance uncertainty, compress life cycle, and optimize outcomes.

Emerging Contaminants Handbook can be purchased at CRCPress.com or Amazon.com.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill – Lessons learned 30 years after the event

As reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are still lessons to be learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred on March 24th, 1989.

A recent report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) found that some organizations involved in environmental cleanup, restoration and research weren’t talking to each other during the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010. In fact, some agencies weren’t even aware that the other existed.

The U.S. Congress, reacting to the Exxon Valdez spill, created the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research as part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The committee’s purpose is to “coordinate oil pollution research among federal agencies and with relevant external entities,” according to the GAO. The committee, which has representatives from 15 agencies, is expected to coordinate with federal-state trustee councils created to manage restoration funds obtained through legal settlements.

GAO investigators found, however, that “the committee does not coordinate with the trustee councils and some were not aware that the interagency committee existed.”

Although three decades have passed since oil soiled the surface of Prince William Sound and rolled onto its shores, evidence of the spill remains. GAO staff visited the spill site in May of last year “and observed the excavation of three pits that revealed lingering oil roughly 6 inches below the surface of the beach …” Restoration is largely complete in Prince William Sound, but some work continues and research will continue for decades, the GAO report notes.

Background: Exxon Valdez Spill and Clean-up

As reported in History.com, The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a man-made disaster that occurred when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by the Exxon Shipping Company, spilled 41 million litres of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Exxon Valdez oil slick covered 2,000 kilometres of coastline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and whales.

Exxon payed about $2 billion in cleanup costs and $1.8 billion for habitat restoration and personal damages related to the spill.

Cleanup workers skimmed oil from the water’s surface, sprayed oil dispersant chemicals in the water and on shore, washed oiled beaches with hot water and rescued and cleaned animals trapped in oil.

Environmental officials purposefully left some areas of shoreline untreated so they could study the effect of cleanup measures, some of which were unproven at the time. They later found that aggressive washing with high-pressure, hot water hoses was effective in removing oil, but did even more ecological damage by killing the remaining plants and animals in the process. Nearly 30 years later, pockets of crude oil remain in some locations.

Lessons Learned

A 2001 study found oil contamination remaining at more than half of the 91 beach sites tested in Prince William Sound.

The spill had killed an estimated 40 percent of all sea otters living in the Sound. The sea otter population didn’t recover to its pre-spill levels until 2014, twenty-five years after the spill.

Stocks of herring, once a lucrative source of income for Prince William Sound fisherman, have never fully rebounded.

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the U.S. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 increased penalties for companies responsible for oil spills and required that all oil tankers in United States waters have a double hull. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), which was enacted after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, established the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (interagency committee) to coordinate oil pollution research among federal agencies and with relevant external entities, among other things.

The U.S. GAO recommends, among other things, that the interagency committee coordinate with the trustee councils to support their work and research needs. 

U.S. NTSB updates list of most wanted safety improvements

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (U.S. NTSB) recently unveiled its list of most wanted safety improvements for the transportation sector in 2019-2020.

Launched in 1990, the most wanted list serves as a primary advocacy tool to help save lives, prevent injuries and reduce property damage resulting from transportation accidents, U.S. NTSB officials said in a press release. In 2017, the U.S. NTSB changed it from an annual to biennial list to provide list developers and recipients more time to implement recommendations, some of which are longstanding safety issues the board believes continue to threaten the traveling public.

The 10 items on the 2019-20 list are:
• eliminate distractions;
• end alcohol and other drug impairment;
• ensure the safe shipment of hazardous materials;
• fully implement positive train control (PTC);
• implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes;
• improve the safety of certain aircraft flight operations;
• increase the implementation of collision avoidance systems in new highway vehicles;
• reduce fatigue-related accidents;
• screen for and treat obstructive sleep apnea; and
• strengthen occupant protection.

Hazmat Safety

In terms of hazmat safety, the NTSB is calling on the rail industry to meet existing federal deadlines for replacing or retrofitting tank cars. More than 2 million miles of pipeline deliver 24 percent of the natural gas and 39 percent of the total oil consumed in the United States, yet only 16 percent of U.S. rail tank cars carrying flammable liquids meet the improved safety specifications for DOT-117/DOT-117R cars. Failure to meet safety standards by or ahead of deadlines places communities near tracks at unacceptable risks, board members believe.

The U.S. NTSB investigations have shown that moving ethanol by rail and crude oil by pipeline can be unnecessarily hazardous. These essential commodities must be conveyed in a manner that ensures the safety of those who are transporting it as well as those in the communities it passes through.

There are 267 open safety recommendations associated with the current most wanted list and the board is focused on implementing 46 of them within the next two years, U.S. NTSB officials said. The majority of the recommendations — roughly two-thirds — seek critical safety improvements by means other than regulation, they said.

“We at the NTSB can speak on these issues. We can testify by invitation to legislatures and to Congress, but we have no power of our own to act,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We are counting on industry, advocates and government to act on our recommendations.”