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U.S. EPA Updates the Superfund National Priorities List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced that it is adding seven sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) where releases of contamination pose human health and environmental risks.

The NPL includes the United States’ most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing U.S. EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

“By adding these sites to the National Priorities List, we are taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect the health of the local communities, and return the sites to safe and productive reuse,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our commitment to these communities is that sites on the National Priorities List will be a true national priority. We’ve elevated the Superfund program to a top priority, and in Fiscal Year 2018, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the NPL.”

The following sites are being added to the NPL:

· Magna Metals in Cortlandt Manor, New York

· PROTECO in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico

· Shaffer Equipment/Arbuckle Creek Area in Minden, West Virginia

· Cliff Drive Groundwater Contamination in Logansport, Indiana

· McLouth Steel Corp in Trenton, Michigan

· Sporlan Valve Plant #1 in Washington, Missouri

· Copper Bluff Mine in Hoopa, California

McLouth Steel Corp in Trenton, Michigan (Photo Credit: CREDIT TRANSKOHR / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24% within 3 miles of sites after cleanup.

Redeveloped Superfund sites can generate a great deal of economic activity. Thanks to Superfund cleanups, previously blighted properties are now being used for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. At 529 Superfund sites returned to productive use, 8,600 businesses operate and 195,000 employees earn more than $13 billion in annual income.

The Superfund Task Force is working to improve the Superfund program. The U.S. EPA has implemented nearly half of the Task Force’s recommendations to expedite site cleanups and redevelopment and expects to complete the remaining recommendations by July 2019.

Source: U.S. EPA

United States: U.S. EPA Takes Action Under TSCA Identifying Chemicals For Agency Scrutiny

Written by by Lawrence E. Culleen, Arnold & Porter

Prioritization of Chemicals

In its continuing quest to meet regulatory deadlines imposed by the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has published a list of 40 chemicals that must be “prioritized” by the end of 2019. The announcement marks the beginning of the Agency’s process for designating the 40 listed chemicals identified as either “high” or “low” priority substances for further the U.S. EPA scrutiny. At the conclusion of the prioritization process, at least 20 of the substances likely will be designated as high priority.

A high priority designation immediately commences the U.S. EPA’s formal “risk evaluation” procedures under the amended statute. The risk evaluation process can lead to “pause preemption” under the terms of the 2016 amendments and new state laws and regulations restricting the manufacture, processing, distribution, and use of a chemical substance undergoing a risk evaluation could not be established until the evaluation process is completed. The U.S. EPA commenced its first 10 risk evaluations as required under the amended law at the close of 2016. The Agency is required to have an additional 20 risk evaluations of high priority substances ongoing by December 22, 2019. If the U.S. EPA’s risk evaluation process concludes that a substance presents an “unreasonable risk” to health or the environment under its “conditions of use,” the Agency must commence a rulemaking to prohibit or limit the use of the substance under Section 6 of TSCA.

The Agency’s announcement of the list of chemicals to undergo prioritization provides the makers and users of the listed substances an important, time limited opportunity to submit relevant information such as the uses, hazards, and exposure for these chemicals. The U.S. EPA has opened a docket for each of the 40 chemicals and the opportunity to submit information for the U.S. EPA’s consideration will close in 90 days (on June 19, 2019). The U.S. EPA will then move to propose the designation of these chemical substances as either high priority or low priority. The statute requires the U.S. EPA to complete the prioritization process, by finalizing its high priority and low priority designations, within the next nine to 12 months.

The list of 20 substances to be reviewed as high priority candidates consists entirely of substances previously identified by U.S. EPA in 2014 as “Work Plan” chemicals. Thus, the list contains few chemicals that should be considered complete “surprises.” However, the inclusion of formaldehyde may raise concerns in certain quarters given the scrutiny that has been given to the U.S. EPA’s previous struggles with assessing the potential effects of formaldehyde. The Agency has attempted to address these concerns by stating “Moving forward evaluating formaldehyde under the TSCA program does not mean that the formaldehyde work done under IRIS will be lost. In fact, the work done for IRIS will inform the TSCA process. By using our TSCA authority EPA will be able to take regulatory steps; IRIS does not have this authority.” Also included in the listing are several chlorinated solvents, phthalates, flame retardants, a fragrance additive, and a polymer pre-curser:

  • p-Dichlorobenzene
  • 1,2-Dichloroethane
  • trans-1,2- Dichloroethylene
  • o-Dichlorobenzene
  • 1,1,2-Trichloroethane
  • 1,2-Dichloropropane
  • 1,1-Dichloroethane
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (1,2-Benzene- dicarboxylic acid, 1,2- dibutyl ester)
  • Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) – 1,2-Benzene- dicarboxylic acid, 1- butyl 2(phenylmethyl) ester
  • Di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) – (1,2-Benzene- dicarboxylic acid, 1,2- bis(2-ethylhexyl) ester)
  • Di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP) – (1,2-Benzene- dicarboxylic acid, 1,2- bis-(2methylpropyl) ester)
  • Dicyclohexyl phthalate
  • 4,4′-(1-Methylethylidene)bis[2, 6-dibromophenol] (TBBPA)
  • Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP)
  • Phosphoric acid, triphenyl ester (TPP)
  • Ethylene dibromide
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • 1,3,4,6,7,8-Hexahydro-4,6,6,7,8,8-hexamethylcyclopenta [g]-2-benzopyran (HHCB)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalic anhydride

The U.S. EPA has signaled that it has received a manufacturer request for a EPA to undertake a risk evaluation of two additional phthalates which, if administrative requirements for such request have been met, the Agency would announce publicly in the very near term.

The 20 low priority candidate chemicals were selected from the U.S. EPA’s “Safer Chemicals Ingredients List”—a list of substances previously evaluated and considered to meet the U.S. EPA’s “Safer Choice” criteria for use in certain common product categories, such as cleaning products.

Other Recent and Impending U.S. EPA Actions Under TSCA

Given the numerous deadlines that are looming under the amendments to TSCA, it is critical that chemical manufacturers and processors of chemicals and formulations remain aware of the recent and upcoming actions under TSCA that can significantly impact their businesses. The following provides a short list of important actions of which to be aware.

Active/Inactive TSCA Inventory Designations. EPA released an updated version of the TSCA Inventory in February 2019. The Inventory is available for download here. This version of the Inventory includes chemical substances reported by manufacturers and processors by their respective reporting deadlines in 2018. The updated TSCA Inventory (confidential and non-confidential versions) includes 40,655 “active” chemical substances and 45,573 “inactive” chemical substances. Once the current 90-day “transition period” has concluded, it will be unlawful to manufacture, import or process in the US any substance that is listed as “inactive” without first providing notice to the U.S. EPA. Thus, prior to the expiration of the “transition period” on May 20, 2019, manufacturers and processors of chemical substances that are not listed as active on the February 2019 TSCA Inventory must take steps to activate the substance by filing a Notice of Activity (NOA Form B) for any chemical substance that they currently are manufacturing or processing, or anticipate manufacturing or processing within 90 days of submission.

Final TSCA Section 6(a) for Methylene Chloride in Paint and Coating Removers. EPA has released its long-awaited TSCA Section 6(a) rule restricting the use of methylene chloride in paint and coating removers. The final rule prohibits the manufacture, processing, and distribution of methylene chloride in paint removers for consumer use. The rule prohibits the sale of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers at retail establishments with any consumer sales (including e-commerce sales). The U.S. EPA declined to finalize its determination that the commercial use of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers presents an unreasonable risk. Therefore, distributors to commercial users, industrial users, and other businesses will continue to be permitted to distribute methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers. However, given recent efforts by store-front retailers to “deselect” such products for consumer sales, it remains unclear how distributions to commercial users can or will occur.

The U.S. EPA simultaneously released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking related to a potential certification program for commercial uses of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers. The U.S. EPA has similar programs in place for certain pesticides and refrigerants, and the United Kingdom currently has in place a program to certify commercial users of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers. The U.S. EPA is seeking comment on whether a certification program is the appropriate tool to address any potential risks that could be posed by the commercial use of methylene chloride-containing paint and coating removers.

Upcoming Draft Risk Evaluations. The U.S. EPA is expected to publish within days or weeks the highly anticipated draft Risk Evaluations for the remaining 9 of the 10 initial substances to undergo TSCA Risk Evaluations under the amended law and which have been under review since December 2016. The Agency will accept comments on the drafts for a limited period.

Proposed Rules for 5 PBT substances. The U.S. EPA is required to issue no later than June 2019 proposed TSCA Section 6 regulations for 5 persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) substances that were identified during 2016 as priorities for regulatory action. The Agency must propose expedited rules intended to reduce exposures to the extent practicable.


*Camille Heyboer also contributed to this Advisory.

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.

About the Author

Lawrence Culleen represents clients on administrative, regulatory, and enforcement matters involving federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Agriculture, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Mr. Culleen has broad experience advising clients on US and international regulatory programs that govern commercial and consumer use chemicals, pesticides and antimicrobials, as well as the products of biotechnology and nanoscale materials. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Culleen held significant positions at EPA serving as a manager in various risk-management programs which oversee pesticides, chemical substances, and biotechnology products.

U.S. EPA Releases Annual Superfund Program Report for 2018

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released a summary report of its accomplishments the 2018 fiscal year. The U.S. EPA has made Superfund a priority of the Agency.

Under the Superfund Program, the U.S. EPA is responsible for cleaning up some of the most contaminated sites in the U.S. and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. To protect public health and the environment, the Superfund program focuses on making a visible and lasting difference in communities.

For the 2018 Fiscal Year, the U.S. EPA reported that all or part of 22 sites from the National Priorities List (NPL) were were remediated and deleted from the NPL list.

Regional milestones in the Superfund Program for fiscal year 2018 include:

  • Furthering partnerships with state counterparts and local governments in identifying sites for expedited cleanup activities. (Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Pascagoula, Miss. and Fairfax St. Wood Treaters Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Stepping up efforts to return sites to productive use and deleting sites from the National Priorities List (NPL). (Davis Timber Company (Hattiesburg, Miss.) Reasor Chemical Company (Castle Hayne, NC) Whitehouse Oil Pits (Whitehouse, Fla.)
  • Enhancing emergency response and preparedness efforts using innovative tools, comprehensive training sessions and rigorous exercises to respond to natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

Highlights of EPA’s 2018 accomplishments include:

  • Improving human health for people living near Superfund sites by controlling potential or actual human exposure risk at 32 additional Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites and controlling the migration of contaminated groundwater at 29 sites.
  • Deleting 18 full and four partial sites from the NPL – the largest number of deletions in one year since 2005 – signaling to the surrounding communities that U.S. EPA has completed the job of transforming these once highly contaminated areas.
  • Returning sites to communities for redevelopment by identifying 51 additional sites as having all long-term protections in place and meeting our “sitewide ready for anticipated use” designation, the highest annual result since 2013.
  • Completing or providing oversight of 242 Superfund removal actions at sites where contamination posed an imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment.
  • Quickly and effectively responding to large scale emergencies brought on by hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters in California, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
  • Moving many sites closer to completion by making decisions that have been delayed, including West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.; USS Lead in East Chicago, Ind.; and San Jacinto Waste Pits in Channelview, Texas.

The U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has recused himself from working on 45 Superfund sites as a result of his history of lobbying for International Paper Co. and Xcel Energy Inc., among other companies.

In addition, in July 2018, on the one-year anniversary of the agency’s Superfund Task Force Recommendations, the U.S. EPA issued a report covering Task Force accomplishments to date and laying out its plan for completing the remaining recommendations in 2019.

Click here to read the full report.

United States: EPA Soliciting Comments On BUILD Act

Article by Phillip E. Hoover and Vickie C. RusekSmith Gambrell & Russell LLP

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to streamline the cleanup and reuse of National Priorities List sites with an emphasis on private party participation and private investment. NPL site designation was once a popular way for affected communities to secure federal funding for remediation, but the program has long suffered from lack of funding. Now, the Trump administration seeks to streamline the delisting of NPL sites in the same manner as the redevelopment of brownfields. One example of this initiative is the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act, which was enacted on March 23, 2018, and reauthorizes EPA’s Brownfields program at current funding levels through 2023. EPA is currently developing policy guidance to implement the BUILD Act, and is soliciting comment on three of the Act’s provisions: (1) the authority to increase the per-site cleanup grant amounts to $500,000; (2) the new multi-purpose grant authority; and (3) the new small community assistance grant authority. Click here for more information about these provisions and submitting comments to EPA.

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 article was first published on the Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP website.

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About the Authors

Phillip E. Hoover is a Partner in the Environmental and Sustainability Practice Areas of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.  Mr. Hoover’s practice includes providing counsel on numerous environmental regulatory matters, as well as the redevelopment of environmentally impacted properties. These include state and federal superfund sites, corporate mergers and acquisitions of such properties. His environmental experience includes representation of Potentially Responsible Parties at superfund sites. He has negotiated RCRA permits and corrective action plans on behalf of clients in various states.

Vickie Chung Rusek is an Associate in the Environmental Practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP. Ms. Rusek represents clients in all aspects of environmental compliance, enforcement, permitting, and litigation, including Superfund cleanups, Resource Conservation Recovery Act compliance, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permitting and compliance, and environmental tort litigation.

Examples of Groundwater Remediation at National Priorities List Sites

The U.S. EPA recently issued a report that report highlights a select number of example National Priorities List (NPL) sites where EPA has used innovative and established technologies to restore groundwater for use as a source of drinking water. In these examples groundwater was successfully restored for drinking water use at 17 NPL sites and significant progress toward groundwater restoration was made at an additional 13 NPL sites where contaminants remain above safe drinking water levels. These sites demonstrate how the Superfund program can overcome challenges related to difficult contaminants of concern and complex hydrogeologic settings (May 2018, 114 pages).

The report documents where innovative and established technologies have been used to restore groundwater to beneficial use. This report includes a select number of example National Priorities List (NPL) sites where the remedial action objective (RAO) and associated cleanup levels were to restore groundwater for use as a source of drinking water. Groundwater was restored for use as drinking water at 17 NPL sites and significant progress toward groundwater restoration has been made at an additional 13 NPL sites where contaminants remain above safe drinking water levels in only a few groundwater wells. The RAO of restoring groundwater for beneficial use was achieved under the Superfund program, including the successful treatment of groundwater to federal and state maximum contaminant levels for drinking water. These sites are examples of where the Superfund program overcame difficult remediation challenges, such as groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents (including the presence of dense non-aqueous phase liquids [DNAPLs]) and complex hydrogeologic settings.

One of 114 Superfund sites in New Jersey, former Edgewater manufacturing site Quanta Resources has been on the National Priorities List since 2002.

The NPL sites discussed in this report were selected based on several criteria, including the use of innovative cleanup technologies or approaches to remedy concentrated groundwater plumes. The most commonly occurring contaminants of concern at these sites were chlorinated volatile organic compounds, which were present at 26 of the 30 sites. The less frequently occurring contaminants included metals, non-chlorinated volatile organic compounds, semivolatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, with dioxins or pesticides only present at one site.

The restoration of groundwater was achieved most often by combining remedial technologies. For example, soil excavation and groundwater extraction and treatment (i.e., pump-and-treat) were used to restore groundwater at 17 of the 30 NPL sites. Given that many of these sites were cleaned up during the period from 1983 to 2000, the remedies used at these sites represented state of the art technologies at that time. These traditional technologies were often modified or replaced with innovative technologies such as in situ bioremediation, in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO), in situ thermal treatment (ISTT) or monitored natural attenuation (MNA) at some sites. The application of remedial technologies at these sites decreased contaminant concentrations from 90% up to 99.99% (i.e., one to more than four orders of magnitude).

DNAPLs were found or suspected at eight of the 30 sites. A combination of excavation and pumpand-treat was used most often to remediate these sites along with at least one other technology or approach such as vertical engineered barrier, air sparging, in situ bioremediation, STT, or MNA. Of the eight DNAPL sites, groundwater was restored for use as drinking water at three sites and significant progress towards restoration has been made at five sites. These findings indicate that the Superfund program has achieved the cleanup of sites with DNAPLs.

The time required to restore groundwater for use as drinking water at the 17 NPL sites ranged from three to 27 years with a median time of eight years. Cleanup time generally increased as the amount of contaminant removed increased with the exception of four sites where contaminant concentrations were decreased by nearly 99.99% in less than eight years. Cleanup times were generally shorter for sites with less complex hydrogeologic settings with the exception of three sites with mild heterogeneity that required more than 15 years to restore groundwater. Also, in most cases, cleanup times were shorter for lesser reductions in concentration.

All of the 30 sites, with the exception of two, have achieved the status of sitewide ready for anticipated reuse (SWRAU), and 12 of these sites have been returned to use either in whole or in part. Reuse includes industrial and commercial redevelopment, recreational use, alternative energy use, and lifting of groundwater use restrictions.

View or download at http://www.epa.gov/remedytech/examples-groundwater-remediation-npl-sites.

 

Despite Efforts to Roll-Back Other Program Requirements, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Continues to Prioritize Superfund Cleanups

by Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. and Marian C. Hwang

 

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Administrator Scott Pruitt has made it clear that one of his top priorities during his tenure is to expedite cleanups at contaminated sites across the country. To achieve this goal while facing potential budget cuts, he has made several significant decisions over the last year to overhaul and restructure the Superfund cleanup program from within.

First, as we discussed in our earlier post, A New Budget, a New EPA Administrator, and New Uncertainty for Superfund Cleanups, Administrator Pruitt issued a memorandum on May 9, 2017 centralizing decision-making on major Superfund remedies to EPA headquarters. Specifically, final decisions on remedies exceeding $50 million are to be made by Administrator Pruitt or the Deputy Administrator, not by Regional Administrators. According to the memorandum, this change is designed to improve the remedy selection process by promoting increased oversight and accountability and by “enhancing consistency in remedy selection across states and the regions.”

Next, Administrator Pruitt specially convened an EPA Superfund Task Force on May 22, 2017. In our post, EPA’s Task Force Recommendations to Revamp and Expedite Superfund Cleanups and Process – A Welcome Change, we discussed the Task Force Report, issued on July 22, 2017, which identified 5 goals, 13 strategies, and 42 recommendations to (1) expedite Superfund cleanups; (2) re-invigorate responsible party cleanup and reuse; (3) encourage private investment; (4) promote redevelopment and community revitalization; and (5) engage partners and stakeholders. We have seen many of these recommendations realized, including the development and issuance of a priority list of Superfund sites targeted for immediate attention by Administrator Pruitt.

Recent EPA Realignment in Approval Process Sees the Administrator’s Role Expanding

Composite image map showing TRI facilities in blue and Superfund NPL sites in red

In a recent shift to expand the influence of the Administrator’s Office, Administrator Pruitt issued a second memorandum on April 26, 2018 clarifying that EPA’s Office of Land & Emergency Management and regional offices should “coordinate and consult with the Administrator’s Office early on when developing” other significant actions (in addition to remedies) related to costly Superfund cleanups. Such actions would include Amendments to Records of Decision (“ROD”) or Explanations of Significant Differences (“ESD”) that are projected to either increase the estimated cost of a remedy to greater than $50 million or are projected to increase the estimated cost of a remedy that is already greater than $50 million by any amount.

The memorandum also specifically notes that consultations should occur when developing Non-Time-Critical Removal Actions (“NTCRA”) estimated to exceed $50 million. As in the earlier 2017 memorandum, Administrator Pruitt says the additional coordination and cooperation will result in “more accountability and consistency throughout the EPA’s regions.” What this means for potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) at large Superfund sites is that Administrator Pruitt will play an increasingly important role in the decision-making process.

Neither memorandum addressed any change in the role of the National Remedy Review Board (“NRRB”) and the interplay between the NRRB and the increasing oversight and decision-making role of Administrator Pruitt. The NRRB is an internal EPA peer review group that reviews and comments on remedial actions and NTCRAs costing more than $25 million. Questions remain whether the NRRB only reviews actions costing between $25 and $50 million, as not to impede Administrator Pruitt’s review, or do both NRRB and Administrator Pruitt review actions costing in excess of $50 million?

Uncertainty in the Superfund Program

This step comes amid increased turmoil and uncertainty in the Administrator’s Office and the Superfund program. Administrator Pruitt’s top advisor on the Superfund program and chairman of the Superfund Task Force, Albert “Kell” Kelly, resigned unexpectedly in early May, leaving questions regarding who will run the approximately $1 billion program. Further, Administrator Pruitt himself is facing numerous investigations into his own actions and ethical violations; causing many to wonder just how much longer he will be in his current job and whether he will see any of these policy changes implemented.

It is easy to see, therefore, why every decision from the Administrator’s Office comes under significant scrutiny. Many opponents believe these moves are simply ways to reduce costs and time in the cleanup process, and they question whether “expedited” cleanups actually mean less rigorous cleanups. In his first year or so, there are examples where Administrator Pruitt has approved strengthened measures and cleanup requirements at some sites, despite pushback from industry and companies involved in the cleanup, but there are also examples of site decisions that cast doubt on his ability to be independent and impartial. In any case, as long as Administrator Pruitt is in his current role, it is clear that the Superfund program will see continued change and that he will use the authority of that role to expedite cleanups.

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS. Please contact the author if you would like to receive written advice in a format which complies with IRS rules and may be relied upon to avoid penalties.

This story is was first published on the Miles Stockbridge website.

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About the authors

member of Miles & Stockbridge Products Liability & Mass Torts Practice Group, Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. focuses his practice on environmental litigation, regulatory compliance issues, and advising on the environmental aspects of business and real estate transactions. His work also includes consulting on renewable energy project development and project finance transactions, conducting due diligence and assisting with permitting issues. He represents clients in a wide range of industries, including energy, manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, transportation, technology and real estate.

Marian Hwang has been an environmental attorney with the Miles & Stockbridge since 1987 and chairs its Environmental Practice. The breadth of her experiences representing multinational and national clients enables her to develop practical solutions to complex issues, whether involving complicated real estate/corporate acquisitions or divestitures or commercial financing matters to complex multi-defendant toxic tort claims, litigation, and multi-facility compliance matters. Marian works extensively with and appears before Federal and State regulators, and courts, has been certified as a LEED Green Associate by the U.S. Green Building Council, and has served as outside national environmental counsel to the firm’s major clients.

 

U.S. EPA Hazardous Waste Enforcement in Wisconsin

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) and Kerry Biofunctional Ingredients, Inc. d/b/a Kerry Bio Sciences (“Kerry”) recently entered a Consent Agreement (“CA”) addressing alleged violations of Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and its regulations implementing requirements for the management of hazardous waste. See Docket Number : RCRA-02-2017-7108.

Kerry is a subsidiary of Kerry, Inc. whose North American Headquarters is situated in Beloit, Wisconsin.

The CA provides that Kerry operates a facility in Norwich, New York (“Facility”) that has been a generator of hazardous waste.

As a result of the July 2016 inspection and Kerry’s response to the Request for Information, the Facility is alleged to have failed to:

  1. Make hazardous wastes determinations for certain waste-streams found at the Facility
  2. Keep a complete copy of each hazardous waste manifest for at least three years
  3. Meet the conditions necessary to accumulate hazardous waste without having obtained a permit or qualifying for interim status

Such alleged failures are stated to be violations of the RCRA regulations.

The CA assesses a civil penalty of $20,000.

A copy of the CA can be downloaded here.

Kerry Headquarters, Ireland

Activated Carbon-Based Technology for In Situ Subsurface Remediation

The U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation recently published a fact sheet about an emerging remedial technology that applies a combination of activated carbon (AC) and chemical and/or biological amendments for in situ remediation of soil and groundwater contaminated by organic contaminants, primarily petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.  The technology typically is designed to carry out two contaminant removal processes: adsorption by AC and destruction by chemical and/or biological amendments.

With the development of several commercially available AC-based products, this remedial technology has been applied with increasing frequency at contaminated sites across the country, including numerous leaking underground storage tank (LUST) and dry cleaner sites (Simon 2015).  It also has been recently applied at several Superfund sites, and federal facility sites that are not on the National Priorities List.

The fact sheet provides information to practitioners and regulators for a better understanding of the science and current practice of AC-based remedial technologies for in situ applications. The uncertainties associated with the applications and performance of the technology also are discussed.

AC-based technology applies a composite or mixture of AC and chemical and/or biological amendments that commonly are used in a range of in situ treatment technologies.  Presently, five commercial AC-based products have been applied for in situ subsurface remediation in the U.S.: BOS-100® & 200® (RPI), COGAC® (Remington Technologies), and PlumeStop® (Regenesis) are the four most commonly used commercial products.  CAT-100® from RPI is the most recent product, developed based on BOS-100®.  One research group in Germany also developed a product called Carbo-Iron®.  The AC components of these products typically are acquired from specialized AC manufacturers.  These types of AC have desired adsorption properties for chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons.  Different products also have different AC particle sizes, which determine the suitable injection approach and the applicable range of geological settings.

Example of powdered activated carbon “fracked” into the subsurface under high-pressure, causing preferential pathways into existing monitoring wells (Photo Credit: Regenesis)

 

In Situ Treatment Performance Monitoring: Issues and Best Practices

The U.S. EPA recently released an issue paper (EPA 542-F-18-002) that describes how in situ treatment technologies may impact sampling and analysis results.  The paper discusses the best practices to identify and mitigate issues that may affect sampling and analysis.

The utility of monitoring wells for performance or attainment monitoring is based on the premise that contaminant concentrations measured in the wells are representative of aquifer conditions. However, during in situ treatment, various biogeochemical and hydrogeological processes and sampling and analysis procedures may affect the representativeness of the monitoring well and sample quality, which may not be adequately considered in current remediation practice.

A properly designed monitoring network that anticipates the distribution of amendments after injection would minimize impacts to monitoring wells.  However, predicting amendment distribution prior to injection is challenging such that impacts to monitoring wells are likely.

The purpose of The U.S. EPA issue paper is to:
• describe how in situ treatment technologies may impact sampling and analysis results used to monitor treatment performance; and
• provide best practices to identify and mitigate issues that may affect sampling or analysis.

The U.S. EPA issue  paper discusses eight potential sampling or analytical issues associated with groundwater monitoring at sites where in situ treatment technologies are applied. These issues are grouped under three topic areas:
• Issues related to monitoring wells (Section 2).
• Representativeness of monitoring wells (Section 3).
• Post-sampling artifacts (Section 4).

The paper presents issues that pertain to collecting water samples directly from a monitoring well and does not discuss the use of other sampling techniques, such as passive diffusion bags or direct push groundwater sampling.

U.S. EPA Guidance Documents Are Not Enforceable Rules Says DOJ

by Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. and Russell V. Randle at Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

Companies regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) have long complained that U.S. EPA too often uses guidance documents improperly, both to expand regulatory requirements beyond what the law permits and to avoid judicial review of such expansions. Moreover, regulated parties often argue that the U.S. EPA rigidly enforces such guidance as binding federal rules, but ignores such guidance when it likes. Without expressly referencing the U.S. EPA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has now taken action that will make it harder for such alleged misuse to occur, whether by the U.S. EPA or by other agencies whose rules the DOJ enforces in federal civil cases through civil penalties and injunctive relief.

Guidance documents serve an essential role in environmental regulation, given the great complexity of the ecosystems to be protected and the intricacies of the industries regulated. The U.S. EPA often publishes policy and guidance documents to clarify enforcement authority, to encourage compliance, and to offer the official interpretation or view on specific issues. Over time, these policies and guidance documents have become a key tool in the DOJ’s enforcement toolbox. DOJ attorneys have used non-compliance with these policies and documents as evidence that the underlying regulation or statute has been violated.

Regulated parties have long objected to this practice because, unlike the underlying regulations, these guidance documents seldom are subject to the notice-and-comment procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) or judicial review before an enforcement case is brought, when a challenge to the EPA interpretation is a very high stakes gamble.

On January 25, 2018, the DOJ offered the regulated community some relief from this practice. Ironically, it did so in a Policy Memorandum – a guidance document – entitled, “Limiting Use of Agency Guidance Documents in Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases.” This policy memo prohibits DOJ attorneys from relying on agency guidance documents as the sole basis for their civil enforcement actions. In other words, DOJ attorneys can no longer bring enforcement actions that require compliance with agency policy and guidance in lieu of clearly articulated requirements in properly promulgated and binding federal rules. The Policy Memorandum’s impact across various regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and tax will differ and remains uncertain; however, we see a particularly significant effect on DOJ’s ability to enforce environmental regulations and statutes administered by the U.S. EPA.

What does the Policy Memorandum say?

The Policy Memorandum memorializes what the regulated community has argued for many years – that “[g]uidance documents cannot create binding requirements that do not already exist by statute or regulation” – and provides a list of how DOJ attorneys may and may not use agency guidance in future and pending affirmative civil enforcement actions. According to the Policy Memorandum, DOJ may not:

  • Use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules;
  • Use noncompliance with guidance documents as a basis for proving violations of applicable law in civil enforcement cases; and
  • Treat a party’s noncompliance with an agency guidance document as presumptively or conclusively establishing that the party violated the applicable statute or regulation.

The Policy Memorandum does not impose an absolute bar against using agency guidance; instead, DOJ attorneys may “continue to use agency guidance documents for proper purposes in such cases.” For example, guidance documents are often used as evidence that a regulated party had “requisite knowledge of the mandate.” This use is expressly still allowed. So is the use of guidance documents that simply explain or paraphrase the legal requirements in the four corners of the existing statutes or regulations, as long as the guidance doesn’t create new requirements.

What does the Policy Memorandum mean for the regulated community?

In practice, the new policy may reduce the use of civil enforcement actions to advance new EPA policy interpretations, interpretations which typically push the boundaries of the U.S. EPA’s legal authority. This effect may be particularly noticeable in connection with claimed violations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

Enforcement under these statutes relies heavily on thousands of pages of the U.S. EPA guidance documents. The interpretations of these guidance documents are often a moving target because very few have been subject to comment by the regulated community and the public or judicial review, as DOJ routinely argues that they are not “really” binding or justiciable.

The Superfund program, in particular, relies upon guidance documents to flesh out its requirements for removal and remedial work, rather than relying upon rules established under APA procedures. The government will have a more difficult time arguing that violations of EPA guidance constitutes a violation of CERCLA requirements; in practice, such guidance often imposes very detailed and sometimes onerous requirements not mentioned in the statute or any implementing regulation.

Similarly, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Corps of Engineers are no longer relying upon the controversial 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States,” but instead rely upon guidance documents. The DOJ Policy Memorandum may have significant and unanticipated effects in that context, since the court decisions are divided as to what constitutes waters of the United States and what may constitute a jurisdictional wetland subject to permit requirements for dredge and fill work under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

It will also make it more difficult for DOJ to enforce settlement documents, consent decrees, and unilateral administrative orders since they are typically based on compliance with requirements discussed in dozens of EPA policies and guidance documents.

Although the DOJ Policy Memorandum does not address the U.S. EPA’s use of its own guidance documents in settlement discussions, in administrative enforcement proceedings, and when issuing notices of violations, DOJ’s announced unwillingness to rely upon the U.S. EPA guidance documents in subsequent civil enforcement actions should restrain such use, and force the U.S. EPA enforcement personnel to focus on clearer potential violations than in the past. That said, nothing in the Policy Memorandum prohibits a regulated party from citing agency guidance documents in its defense.

The Policy Memorandum is part of this Administration’s deregulatory agenda.

DOJ enforcement capability was already constrained by a November 16, 2017 “Prohibition of Improper Guidance Documents” which prevented DOJ from relying on its own published guidance documents. This policy memorandum issued by Attorney General Sessions prohibited DOJ attorneys from:

  • Issuing guidance documents that effectively create rights or obligations binding on the public without undergoing the notice-and-comment rulemaking process;
  • Creating binding standards by which DOJ will determine compliance with existing statutory or regulatory requirements; and
  • Using its guidance documents to coerce regulated parties into taking any action or refraining from taking any action beyond what is required by the terms of the applicable statute or lawful regulation.

It is no secret that the current Administration has set out a broader regulatory reform agenda focused on regulatory rollbacks to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens. The recent February 2018 Policy Memorandum is an extension of the limitations imposed by the November 16, 2017 memorandum, and follows on the heels of other regulatory reform measures such as the establishment of various reform task forces and Executive Order (EO) 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” which requires that any new incremental costs associated with a new regulation be offset by eliminating two existing regulations. Either by EO or by DOJ mandate, the current Administration continues to charge ahead with a deregulatory agenda that establishes less-restrictive rules for the regulated community.

Conclusion

As a result of this new policy, successful enforcement by the U.S. EPA and its enforcement counsel at DOJ will have to focus on clearer and it is hoped, more substantive violations of the U.S. EPA rules, and rely far less on requirements sought to be imposed by agency guidance documents. The impacts may be most pronounced in the Superfund and wetlands contexts, but will be a factor in almost every environmental regulatory program, given the complexity of these programs, and the undeniable need for agency guidance about practical implementation

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS.

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About the Authors

Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. is a member of Miles & Stockbridge  Products Liability & Mass Torts Practice Group.  He focuses his practice on environmental litigation, regulatory compliance issues, and advising on the environmental aspects of business and real estate transactions. His work also includes consulting on renewable energy project development and project finance transactions, conducting due diligence and assisting with permitting issues. He represents clients in a wide range of industries, including energy, manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, transportation, technology and real estate.

Formerly an associate with Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Washington, D.C., he previously practiced environmental law at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Russell V. Randle is a seasoned environmental and export control practitioner with decades of experience managing litigation, regulatory compliance and transactional due diligence for his clients.

He has extensive experience with Superfund and contaminated properties, including many on the National Priorities List. Russ also has handled numerous matters arising under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, as well as antimicrobial issues under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

In his export controls and sanctions practice, Russ covers the full spectrum of compliance, enforcement actions and audit issues related to defense trade, financial transfers and non-governmental organizations working in areas affected by U.S. sanctions.

 

This article was first published on the Miles & Stockbridge P.C. website.

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