Industry asks U.S. DOT to Issue Hazmat Safety Rule

In a letter sent on recently to incoming U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, 22 corporations and trade associations sought “the earliest possible approval” of a final rule that would address hazmat transport safety issues by harmonizing the U.S. hazardous materials regulations with international dangerous goods standards that took effect on January 1st, 2017.  The White House currently has a regulatory freeze that prevents the any new regulations from becoming law.

The release and publication of U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration final rule was initially posted on the Federal Register website but was put on hold per the regulatory freeze imposed by the January 20th 2017 White House memorandum to the heads of all federal departments and agencies.

In reference to the harmonization regulation, the letter states: “Its promulgation will not create any new risks in transport.  In fact, it will ensure the U.S. hazardous materials regulations maintain alignment with international standards, thus assuring safety and avoiding disruptions to supply chains.  Avoidance of such disruption is critically important to all of the undersigned manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, exporters, importers, carriers, and industries.”

“Our endorsement of the regulation also is consistent in our long-standing endorsement of harmonizing the U.S. HMR (hazardous materials regulations) with international standards. Harmonization avoids confusion among shippers, carriers and others in the logistics chain, maximizes safety, and reduces costs for U.S. businesses,” the letter said.

Signatories to the letter include numerous corporations and an array of trade associations representing airlines, battery and electronic product manufacturers, outdoor equipment and power tool manufacturers, the security industry, shippers of dangerous goods, and sporting arms and ammunition manufacturers.

The Rechargeable Battery Association Executive Director, George Kerchner, said trade association members were prepared to comply with the PHMSA regulation’s new labeling, packaging and testing requirements for lithium batteries that match the stringent international standards.  “Different regulations create a fog of confusion that undermines safety while forcing companies to comply with inconsistent regulations when shipping domestically and internationally,” Kerchner emphasized.

Contaminated mine “an embarrassment to Canada”

As reported by the CBC, a Yukon judge recently gave a scathing assessment of the clean-up efforts at the Mount Nansen mine.   Formerly owned by BYG Natural Resources Inc., the Mount Nansen mine is an abandoned former gold and silver mine located in the heart of the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada.  It is currently under government care.

Yukon Supreme court justice Ron Veale approved a clean-up plan for the abandoned Mount Nansen mine in the spring of 2016.  However, he issued his written decision only recently.

In the decision, the judge heavily criticizes the former owner of the mine, BYG Resources, for an “unscrupulous history of … operational mismanagement” that left a big, toxic mess is to be clean-up using Canadian taxpayers’ money.

“This case stands as a painful reminder of the lasting and egregious damage that unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering can bring about in the mining sector.  It is an embarrassment to Canada, Yukon and the responsible mining community,” Veale’s decision reads.  “It is my opinion that an account of BYG’s historical activity in the Yukon should be brought to the attention of the federal and territorial taxpayers, who remain fiscally responsible for remediation efforts.”

History of the Mine

BYG began mining gold and silver at the Mount Nansen site in 1996.  By 1999, the company ceased operations as it was unable to meet the requirements of its water licence.

Immediately after shutdown, BYG appointed a receiver to the site.  In July 1999, the receiver abandoned the property.  The Government of Canada took control of the site and began implementing care and maintenance operations.

In 2003, under an agreement between the Yukon and Canadian governments, the Yukon government became responsible for the property along with the development and implementation of a remediation plan.  The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada.

In a 2007 decision by the Yukon Supreme Court ruled on environmental charges, the court found the company guilty of “raping and pillaging” the Yukon’s resources.

A 2011 environmental assessment at Mount Nansen estimated about 55,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil, 300,000 cubic metres of tailings and 500,000 cubic metres of waste rock at the site.

To date, it is estimated that approximately $25 million has been spent by the government to monitor and control the site.

Business Opportunity

The mine currently for sale to whomever is willing to take on a “government subsidized remediation project,” according to Veale.

In late 2016, pwc, the court-appointed receiver for the mine, announced a shortlist of proponents who successfully responded to a Request for Qualifications on the purchase of assets and remediation work.  The successful respondents are as follows:

  • 536086 Yukon Inc. (lead respondent Merit Consultants International)
  • Alexco Environmental Group Inc. (lead respondent)
  • Morgan Construction & Environmental Ltd. (lead respondent)

It is expected the pwc will issue a Request for Proposals shortly.  The costs to implement the remediation plan would be paid by the Government of Canada.

Under the conditions of sale, the purchaser will be required to prepare a detailed design for the remediation plan, subject to peer review, and approval under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.

Required remediation tasks include de-watering the existing pit in preparation to accept the waste rock, tailings, and contaminated soil, then sealing the pit with a permanent liner.  The plan calls for a clean up “as close to walk away as possible,” with nothing left on site that is not required for long term monitoring and maintenance.

The winning proponent will have up to 10 years to complete the tasks required, and could then acquire permits to mine any viable mineral deposits on the property.

$130,000 in Penalties for Improper Storage of Petroleum Products

The Clearwater River Dene Nation, the Clearwater Store, and band administrator, Walter Hainault, were recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan after pleading guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order (EPCO) issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).  The Clearwater River Dene Nation was fined $100,000; Clearwater Store was fined $25,000; Walter Hainault was fined $5,000.

The EPCO was issued following an inspection at the store to verify compliance with the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations.  Charges were laid under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 after the EPCO failed to bring about full compliance with the Regulations.

EPCOs are issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 by ECCC enforcement officers to direct that various measures be taken to stop or to prevent the commission of an alleged contravention of the Act or its regulations.

The purpose of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations (SOR, 2008-197) is to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and groundwater due to spills and leaks of petroleum products and allied petroleum products from storage tank systems.  The regulations establish technical standards for the design and installation of storage tank systems, and include requirements for operation, maintenance, removal, reporting and record-keeping.

The fines collected will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) follows the Polluter Pays Principle to help ensure that those who cause environmental damage or harm to wildlife take responsibility for their actions.  The EDF is a specified purpose account, administered by ECCC, to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

The US has one inspector for every 5,000 miles of oil pipeline

There are 2.7 million miles of pipeline snaked across the US. Some of the pipes carry hazardous chemicals, others carry crude oil, and still others carry highly pressurized natural gas.  And when it comes to safety, all of them are under the care of 528 government inspectors.  That’s more than 5,000 miles of pipeline or more than twice the length of the United States, per inspector.

The little-known and notoriously understaffed Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, has 188 federal inspectors.  States have another 340 inspectors, all of whom go through PHMSA-certified training.  According to the agency’s website, those two forces combined are “responsible for regulating nearly 3,000 companies that operate 2.7 million miles of pipelines, 148 liquefied natural gas plants, and 7,574 hazardous liquid breakout tanks.”

If US president Donald Trump’s plans to complete both the long-disputed Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines come to fruition, they would add 327 miles and 1,172 miles, respectively, to that burden.  It is unclear if PHMSA will add new inspectors to accommodate that increase, and PHMSA has yet to return a request for comment.

So far, the White House has released no word about Trump’s plans for the Department of Transportation budget, which oversees PHMSA, although his transition team reportedly proposed big cuts for the agency. The cuts would be at odds with Trump’s campaign promise to invest heavily in infrastructure during his first year in office.


About the Author

Zoe Schlanger is an environmental reporter at Quartz.  She focuses on developing coverage of climate change and environmental policy.   Ms. Schlanger was previously a senior reporter at Newsweek, where she got national pickup on her coverage of Detroit air pollution and won an award for a story on the threat of overpopulation.  She has written for a number of other outlets including The New York Times, Guernica, The Nation, Maddowblog, Gothamist, Guernica, and Talking Points Memo. She has a bachelor’s from NYU in politics and environmental studies and speaks Spanish.

This article first appeared in Quartz.

Cloud Delivery of Product Safety, Dangerous Goods, and Scientific Content

3E Company, a provider of environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance and information management services, recently announced that its product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content can now be accessed via the cloud for seamless integration with the SAP® Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) system. 3E’s Ariel® Content for the Cloud is a secure solution for optimized data delivery and maintenance that provides SAP users with improved access to the regulatory and scientific content needed to enhance product and facility compliance.

Cloud delivery of 3E’s continually updated and value-added global regulatory research can reduce the cost and complexity of information technology (IT) setup and maintenance, accelerate content updates, streamline compliance processes, facilitate informed decision making, and mitigate the risk of noncompliance.

Ariel Content for the Cloud enables Internet-based delivery of 3E’s global product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content. Together with 3E’s supplier data and hazard communication rules, phrases, and templates, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a comprehensive compliance solution, allowing users to more easily manage inbound and outbound data and documents.

Compared with earlier generation content management approaches, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a simpler, more efficient way to load and update 3E’s data into SAP EHS. 3E developed the solution to eliminate time consuming and resource intensive manual data maintenance processes, reduce technical infrastructure requirements, simplify deployment, and make software and content updates immediately available for customers. By eliminating the need to host the server and database behind their firewall alongside their SAP EHS application, the flexible architecture and lighter technical footprint help lower the total cost of ownership for clients, particularly for smaller companies or those maintaining multiple SAP environments which HostiServer offers cloud servers that can work with this so I hear.

3E Company, a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business, offers a comprehensive suite of data and solutions for environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance management. 3E was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Carlsbad, California.


Remediating Groundwater Contamination with Nanotechnology

The NanoRem Bulletin recently published a bulletin describing a pilot study to evaluate the nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI) remediation of arsenic (As) in groundwater.  It was undertaken as part of the NanoRem Project (Taking Nanotechnological Remediation Processes from Lab Scale to End User Applications for the Restoration of a Clean Environment), which was funded through theEuropean Union Seventh Framework Programme.

The pilot project was undertaken at the Nitrastur site in Asturias, Spain which is characterised by high concentrations of As in both soil and groundwater.  The goal of the study was to determine if NZVI could be used for in situ remediation applications for treating arsenic contamination in groundwater.

The pilot study presented an opportunity for testing the application of nanoparticles (NPs) in real site conditions, focusing on the treatment of dissolved As in groundwater.  In order to be able to evaluate the performance of the field application, three objectives were set as part of the injection and monitoring plan:

Objective 1: To determine the effectiveness of arsenic nanoremediation;

Objective 2: To determine the temporal and spatial dispersion of nZVI; and

Objective 3: To assess the potential risks associated with nZVI injection and changing groundwater geochemical conditions.

The results of the pilot study were encouraging, although further study was recommended before commercial application of the technology.

The NanoRem project (2013-2017) focused on facilitating practical, safe, economic and exploitable nanotechnology for in situ remediation.  This was undertaken in parallel with developing a comprehensive understanding of the environmental risk-benefit, market demand, overall sustainability, and stakeholder perceptions of the use of nanoparticles (NPs). Twelve NanoRem Bulletins have been created to transfer the knowledge developed within NanoRem to end-users.

U.S. EPA adds Subsurface Intrusion to the Superfund Hazard Ranking System

The U.S. EPA has finalized a proposal to expand the hazards that qualify sites for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).  The U.S. EPA assesses sites using the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which quantifies negative impacts to air, groundwater, surface water and soil.  The U.S. EPA is adding a subsurface intrusion (SsI) component to the Hazard Ranking System (HRS).

In adding the SsI component to the HRS, sites in the U.S. previously not eligible for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) based on other exposure or migration pathways may now be eligible after evaluation of the threat posed by intrusion of contaminants into occupied structures from the subsurface.  The subsurface intrusion component will add the subsurface intrusion threat evaluation to a restructured and renamed soil exposure and subsurface intrusion pathway.  The previous HRS (40 CFR 300, Appendix A), promulgated December 14, 1990, did not consider the threat posed by subsurface intrusion in its evaluation of relative risk posed by a site.  In 1990, the available science and sampling methods were not considered sufficient to evaluate subsurface intrusion threats for scoring purposes.  Therefore, the previous HRS did not provide a complete assessment of the relative risk that a site may pose to the public.


Hefty Fine for Oil Pipeline Spill in Montana

As reported in the Billings Gazette, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently announced a civil penalty of $1 million (U.S.) against Bridger Pipeline LLC for pipeline spill the resulted in the release of 31,000 gallons of oil into the environment.  The oil made its way into the Yellowstone River and contaminated City of Glendive’s water supply.

The penalty will be paid as $200,000 to the State of Montana’s general fund and at least $800,000 will be earmarked for approved “supplemental environmental projects” aimed at reducing pollution, benefiting public health and restoring the environment, according to the DEQ.

The accident occurred in January 2015 when the oil pipeline owed by Bridger Pipeline LLC split at a weld and oil began spilling into the Yellowstone River, just upstream from Glendive, a City with a population of approximately 2,000.  Around the same time, residents of the City began reporting a bad taste and smell from drinking water.  The community switched to bottled sources.

Analysis of the drinking water found benzene at a level three times the limit for long-term exposure risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Oil was detected in fish captured near the leak site.

Recovery and containment of the spill in the Yellowstone River was made difficult due to ice cover. At times, clean-up efforts were halted due to ice on the river.  Much of the oil traveled downstream under the ice, according to the Montana DEQ.  Oil sheens were reported as far away as Williston, North Dakota, almost 100 miles downstream.  It was estimated that less than 10 percent of the oil was recovered as part of the cleanup efforts.

The busted oil pipeline was the responsibility of Bridger Pipeline LLC, which is one of many companies operated by True Oil out of Casper, Wyoming.  The business had a history of 30 spills and a number of fines prior to the January 2015 incident.

Prior to the announced on the penalty by the Montana DEQ, Bridger Pipeline paid for spill response, cleanup and site management work by the Montana DEQ, according to department spokeswoman Jeni Flatow.  To date, the company has paid $80,000 toward those costs, she said.

The company also paid as much as $100,000 for monitoring equipment at Glendive’s water treatment plant, according to Mayor Jerry Jimison.  “As far as the city of Glendive is concerned, our water plant is back up and functioning flawlessly,” he said.  “We are happy with the final result here in Glendive.”

A separate environmental assessment will continue, which could lead to more fines for Bridger Pipeline.  In October, the Montana Department of Justice announced it would seek compensation for damages caused in the spill.

Robots Mapping and Cleaning Nuclear Sites

As report in Sputnik News, a team of researchers at the University of Manchester in Great Britain has been awarded a grant by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop a robotic system equipped with a wider range of sensors than ever before to map nuclear sites.

The world is home to a large number of sites contaminated by radioactive waste, which require the extent of the contamination to be delineated and remediation to occur.  The currently available methodology for mapping and assessing these radioactive sites are extremely expensive and time consuming, involving humans clad in radioactive protective gear, taking samples, and subsequent lab analysis.  In some cases, remote sensors are used which only offer part of the necessary picture.

The robotic system being development at the University of Manchester features optical spectroscopic techniques, advanced radiation detection methods and modern sensor technologies. Each piece of monitoring equipment on the robot will provide a piece of a holistic jigsaw, together with three dimensional mapping of materials within an environment.

The robot system was inspired by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, the robot used to explore the surface of Mars.  The robot will utilize advanced robotics and control technologies similar to those used in the Mars’ Rover.  It is due to be trialled at nuclear contaminated sites including Sellafield in the UK andFukushima in Japan.

Quebec Company fined $500,000 for Oil Discharge

Valero Energy Inc., Jean Gaulin Refinery (formerly Ultramar Ltd.) based Lévis, Quebec, recently pleaded guilty to six environmental offences and it was sentenced by a judge to pay the sum of $500,000.  The company was order to pay a $120,000 fine for failing to comply with an order issued by an officer from Environment Canada and Climate Change (the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. EPA), thereby committing an offence under paragraph 40(3)(g) of the Fisheries Act.  The court also ordered the company to pay the sum of $380,000, pursuant to paragraph 79.2(f), for the financial benefits it obtained through these violations.

An investigation conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) found that Valero Energy Inc. – Jean Gaulin Refinery had failure to comply with a directive issued by ECCC requiring rehabilitation and environmental monitoring work issued following the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.

ECCC enforcement officers conduct inspections and investigations to verify compliance with the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.  They ensure that regulated organizations are in compliance with environmental legislation.

As a result of this conviction, Valero Energy Inc. will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations obtained under certain federal environmental laws. The registry contains convictions obtained for offences committed since June 18, 2009 – when the Environmental Enforcement Act received Royal Assent.

The total amount of the fine will be deposited in the Environmental Damages Fund, which is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  The Environmental Damages Fund, administered by ECCC and established in 1995, provides a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our environment.