U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to hear Pollution Case against Chevron

The U.S. Supreme Court recently made the decision not to hear the case against the Chevron Oil Company made by villagers in Ecuador that claim the company is evading the payment of $8.65 billion (U.S.) for a pollution judgement against it in that country.

The Supreme Court turned away an appeal by U.S. based lawyers for the Ecuador villagers that have spent more than two decades trying to hold Chevron responsible for pollution in that country.

Chevron, in its defence, did not dispute that pollution occurred but claimed it was not liable for it. According to a news report in Reuters, the company claims that the environmental report was biased and the presiding judge in the case in Ecuador was bribed. Chevron’s claim is backed up by lower court rulings in the United States. In 2014, a U.S. District Court Judge barred enforcement of the ruling made in Ecuador citing the corruption used to obtain it. A similar ruling was made by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Contamination of the soil and water of the Ecuador rain forest was caused by Texaco when it operated in the country between 1964 and 1992. The villagers claim that Texaco dumped billions of litres of toxic oil-drilling waters into hundreds of open-air pits. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001. Prior to acquiring Texaco, Chevron signed an agreement in 1998 with the Ecuador government absolving it of any further liability.

The lawyers for Ecuador villagers vow that they will seek a court ruling in Canada. However, a January 2017 ruling by the Ontario superior court ruled that Chevron’s Canadian arm isn’t a party to the Ecuadorian court decision. The lawyers for the Ecuador villagers are appealing the decision.

City of Calgary pushes for control of Contaminated Sites

As reported by the CBC, the City of Calgary, Alberta is negotiating with the Canadian federal government for new powers that will give it more say over contaminated land within its borders. The City of Calgary is currently managing 34 contaminated sites within its borders. It has set aside a pool of $2.8 million for monitoring and clean-up of the sites. Additional monies have also been set aside for closure of existing landfills and as well as millions more earmarked for the clean-up of Old Refinery Park (the site of an oil refinery that operated from 1926 to 1976.

Besides the 34 contaminated sites managed by the municipality, the federal government is responsible for 13 contaminated sites, and there are undetermined number that are the responsibility of private landowners.

Commenting on the number of contaminating sites within the City of Calgary, Trent Parks, the leader of environmental risk and liability at the city, told the CBC, “We only know ones we’ve found. It goes back to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. There may be more out there, we haven’t come across them yet.”

The City wants the authority to inspect and order the clean-up of the contaminated sites it doesn’t own. It also wants to have the ability to clean-up the sites it has control over without the need for approval from the Province of Alberta. City officials want to change the rules on contaminated sites and have included it as part of ongoing negotiations with the Province for a new city charter for Calgary.

The mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, cites the example of the contaminated site that was formerly a gas station called Gas Plus and now under control of the Province. A 9,000 litre link from an underground storage tank at the gas station contaminated the soil and groundwater. The Province is just starting to clean-up of the site after seven years.

Without an environmental site assessment, there is no way of knowing if a property is contaminated or not. In most jurisdictions, if not all, it is the provincial government that can order a private landowner to conduct an ESA on a property but only if off-site migration of contamination is suspected and adverse health or environmental impacts are suspected.

In the CBC article, Christopher De Sousa, the director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto, stated it is fairly standard for municipalities not to have the power to order ESA’s. Even at the provincial level, Mr. De Sousa said that inventories of contaminated sites are focused on government owned properties only. “If they don’t own it, they’re not including it in that inventory,” he said.

“I would say a lot of jurisdictions are hesitant, historically, to inventory brownfields,” Mr. De Sousa said of industrial sites when asked by the CBC if it’s normally difficult to come up with hard numbers.

“The reason being, if a government identifies a site as potentially contaminated and they don’t own it, have they affected the value of that site?”

Mr. De Sousa only knew of one municipal jurisdiction in North America – New York City – that had the authority to order environmental investigations for contamination and clean-up. He said it can benefit a city to have more authority over the sites if they’re willing to look at it intelligently and strategically.

The Alberta government is going to release city charters for Calgary and in July, outlining expanded powers for the city on everything from contaminated sites to affordable housing to municipal tribunals for bylaw offences. It remains to be seen if the City will be granting the power of the control and management of contaminated sites it is seeking.



Annual Cost of Pollution on Canadians estimated at $5,700 per Family

A report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), an environmental non-government organization, estimates that pollution in Canada is costing the average Canadian family $5,700 (Cdn.) per year.  The report claims that negative impacts on health, forests, crops, land, and water quality can be quantified in terms of monetary loss.  The report, entitled “Costs of Pollution in Canada: Measuring the impacts on families, businesses, and governments”, found that pollution costs in 2015 in Canada totaled $52 billion (Cdn.).

The IISD estimated that smog was the biggest contributor to lost income and increased expenses to Canadians, contributing 92 percent of the total cost. The report also investigated the costs of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and their negative impacts on health; heatwaves; and management of contaminated sites, including former mines, factories and gas stations.

With respect to contaminated sites specifically, the report authors examined publically available information on the number of contaminated sites there are in Canada under federal jurisdiction and the costs of monitoring and cleaning up the sites. They found that between fiscal year 2005 and 2015, that the average annual federal expenditure on managing contaminated sites under federal government control to be $283 million. The authors note that this cost represents a lower bound on the total cost of managing contaminated sites in Canada as it does not include sites under provincial, municipal, or private ownership and control.

The report also examined the future costs of managing contaminated sites by federal and provincial/territorial governments. In 2015, the report stated that the total future liability for contaminated site clean-up recognized by the federal government was $5.8 billion. In addition, $6.4 billion in environmental liabilities were recognized by provincial governments.

The publication synthesized existing studies and explained that more research is needed to fill data gaps regarding costs related to: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in terms of climate change and its impacts on the economy and the environment; heavy metals in terms of human health; and fertilizers and other nutrient runoff in terms of excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae.

Market Growth in Environmental Consulting seen Worldwide

According to preliminary findings from a market survey conducted by Environment Analyst, environmental consulting business managers reported average revenue growth of 2.6% for their businesses in 2016. Participants from larger environmental consulting firms provided an average response of some 5.3%, up from the slight decline in the same survey conducted last year.

Preliminary highlights from the survey include:

Global environmental consulting market trends

Revenue – average, unweighted global EC revenue growth for 2016 is stated at 5.3% for large firms, and 1.2% for small and medium-sized firms (with EC revenues less than than $15m/£10m/€13m).

Staff – the mean, unweighted increase in international environmental consultancy teams comes in at 3.4% for large firms, and 1.8% for small/medium practices.

Regions – in terms of five-year regional growth prospects, South East Asia & China is currently topping the list of regions (with an unweighted mean CAGR of 7.2%) followed by North America (6.8%). On Western Europe, consultants are less bullish about their prospects with mean forecast CAGR of 3.6%.

Services – these interim global market findings suggest that currently the highest growth is being seen in air quality services (7.8%, on average), followed by water quality & resource management (7.1%) and environmental management and compliance (6.9%).

Clients – currently the highest growth is being seen in the transport sector (9.9%, on average), followed by renewable energy and chemical & pharmaceutical (both 8.2%).

Forecasts – in this interim survey, the general consensus of expectations for the future remains healthy, with annual growth in global EC revenue expected to rise year-on-year from 3.1% in 2016 to 4.5% in 2017 and further to 6.3% in 2018.

Environment Analyst is encouraging readers to participate in the survey before it closes at the end of the month. All participants receive a complimentary summary of the full survey results, a summary of EA’s Annual Market Assessment and a free job advert on the Environment Analyst website. Read the full summary article here | Start the survey here

Hazmat Response and Confirmation of Chemical Identity

Civilian and military responders face scenarios ranging from intentional chemical attacks and accidental hazardous material (HAZMAT) releases to natural disasters and environmental monitoring or remediation efforts. Responders step on-scene with a diverse toolkit –sometimes small and other times extensive. It is critical to stay familiar with the equipment in the kit, because no single chemical detection tool can provide answers for every scenario.

Colorimetric test kits are one of the most commonly used technologies for quickly collecting presumptive information about a chemical. They are used to determine if a threat is present and determine its chemical class. This information is important, but knowing the exact identity of a chemical can inform a safer response. True chemical identity can provide information to responders and law enforcement officials beyond the initial threat, and lead to further discoveries to further safeguard the public.

While some detectors only indicate the presence of a chemical, others specifically detect hazards in the presence of a complex chemical background, like a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC/MS). GC/MS is an incredibly sensitive and highly specific tool commonly used in laboratory environments. It can sense trace level chemicals other equipment can’t, while also providing the ability to positively identify the chemical. But chemical emergencies don’t just happen in laboratories –they can happen anywhere.

Real-time chemical detection and identification in the field is critical to the CBRNE or HAZMAT response mission. Confirmatory chemical identification enables responders to mitigate a threat and protect people and the environment from harm.

The most challenging aspects of taking gold-standard technology like GC/MS into the field is survivability in harsh environments and ease of use. Significant technological advancements have led to the development of the FLIR Griffin G510 person-portable GC/MS system. Its lab-quality detection performance, simple-to-use interface, and rugged construction are ideal for high-consequence response missions.

Response missions take place in complex environments that the GC/MS must withstand. The Griffin G510 is completely self-contained in a 36-pound device, including batteries, carrier gas, vacuum system, injector, and heated sample probe. It is also the first IP65-rated portable GC/MS. This means it’s dust-tight and spray-resistant, which adds flexibility to decontamination procedures. There is no 40-pound external service module like other portable GC/MS systems and no 20-pound external pump under the bench like those seen in a laboratory. Batteries last up to four hours and are hot swappable, should the mission extend longer than expected, which eliminates the need for a power generator. The Griffin G510 is designed from the ground up to operate outside of the lab.

Hazmat technicians will dive into using the features that deliver lab-quality analysis. First on-scene operators will appreciate that they don’t need a Ph.D. to use it. Basic operator training is completed in only two hours, while expert training can be completed in a single day.

The user interface truly sets it apart from other portable GC/MS systems. It’s streamlined design and guided controls help the user select the mode of operation. First responders must perform quickly and with limited dexterity when wearing required PPE. They are responsible for sample and data collection, and in some cases, real-time decision making. The G510 alerts the operator with visual alarm confirmation both on the handheld probe, as well as the on-board 9” touchscreen. The large touchscreen can be operated by a responder while wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).

Hazmat responders can use the Griffin G510 to analyze all phases of matter (solid, liquid, gas). Its integrated survey mode capability identifies vapor-phase chemical threats within seconds. Its integrated split/splitless liquid injector enables responders to perform direct injection of organic liquids –an industry first. This same injector also accepts other sampling tools, including solid-phase micro-extraction (SPME), off-the-shelf headspace analyzers, and the Prepless Sample Introduction (PSI) Probe. The PSI-Probe directly accepts solid samples in their native form (such as soil and water-based materials). The Griffin G510 reduces the burden of sample preparation for the operator and provides ultimate flexibility as the daily mission changes. Hazardous environments demand the ultimate toolbox include confirmatory instrumentation like GC/MS. The Griffin G510 portable GC/MS redefines performance, ease of use, and value for the responder toolkit.

Urban Land Restoration Index: Harnessing the value of industrial surplus property for urban transformation

Industrial land owners with large surplus properties in central locations hold the key to one of the critical challenges of re-urbanization, the creation of new places with scale and critical mass. Not only does the redevelopment of such sites provide an opportunity to transform urban communities, but it will enable impaired land owners to maximize the value of their underutilized properties.

Proactive cities recognize the role that real estate can play in driving sustainable growth. In fact, many have well-established regeneration programs in place to help transform previously used or environmentally impaired land. As this is in development, owners of this land can use real estate marketing ideas to help this area become appealing to potential buyers when put on the market. In an effort to create rejuvenated urban landscapes that leave a lasting, sustainable heritage, developers and investors in real estate want to minimize risk and maximize returns for redeveloping environmentally stressed properties. For those that are looking for some of the best investment opportunities and trends, looking into some of the best real estate investing courses may become an advantage to have in the future. However, investing in such a big industry can be very daunting so you might not want to do it alone. Luckily, there are companies out there who can offer their investors with tax-advantaged real estate investment programs that can yield superior risk-adjusted returns. Take a look at this 1031 Exchange company and find out more.

“The future of highly competitive cities may rest within the unlocked value of industrial surplus property”

Given the clear potential for surplus properties held by industrial firms and public sector organizations in urban locations, what is holding back redevelopment, and what can be done to more effectively bring these sites into productive use? The answer is complex. It remains a challenge to align the interests of industrial landowners, developers, and city authorities, particularly where the owner may have a large portfolio of property in many cities, and when investing in regeneration is an expensive business. For instance, do you know the solar farm return on investment for a property owner who has invested all his savings to convert his land into a solar farm? There is no doubt that his investment will increase as well as the sustainability of the resources. Isn’t that a win-win situation for him as well as the planet? It is therefore necessary for landowners to align their interests with something that will earn them extra money.

Better quality information that accelerates the identification of cities and sites with the greatest development potential will simplify and increase the certainty of the decision-making required. While key indicators in real estate markets provide a baseline for short-term trends affecting residential and commercial development, they don’t capture the long-term redevelopment potential of cities or the relative challenge of remediation.

The Arcadis Urban Land Restoration Index (ULRI) tackles these issues and identi?es the cities where sites are most cost-effective to clean up while providing the greatest potential for long-term uplift and returns for residential, commercial, and mixed-use development. In effect, the ULRI highlights the best locations to unlock value from surplus property with environmental liabilities in key cities across the United States.

By enabling industrial land owners, city leaders and developers to focus on common opportunities, the ULRI will help to unlock the potential of surplus industrial properties – breathing new life back into communities, creating a lasting legacy for citizens, and generating signi?cant returns from prime, underutilized land.

Oil Spill Clean-up Machine being used on plastic pollution

The Oil Response Cleaning Apparatus (Orca) uses vortex technology to suck debris directly into a receiving tank, such as the hold of a ship, unlike traditional skimmers where machinery can get jammed. The company has found that its equipment can also be used to remove plastic debris from the ocean. The Orca uses vortex technology to suck plastics out of the sea with little likelihood of jamming. A virtually clog-proof marine clean-up machine originally developed to deal with oil spills is being touted as the answer to dealing with the growing menace of plastic in the seas.

The company claims that Orca can handle floating plastic, invasive algae and other debris as well as oil.

New contract will help speed spill response times

BIMCO and International Spill Control Organisation (ISCO) have launched two new spill response contracts to make the task of arranging clean-up services following a spill incident significantly easier to negotiate in an emergency.

The two standard contracts are a first for spill response contractors. One is tailored for international use and the other is specifically for use in the United States and both are available free of charge from www.bimco.org.

The contracts have been written by a group of experts from BIMCO, ISCO, the International Group of P&I Clubs, the International Salvage Union and the Spill Control Association of America. Other partners, including ITOPF (International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation) and individual response contractors, also contributed.

Tony Paulson, West of England P&I Club, who led the drafting team, said:

“Until now, no single standard contract for the hire of specialised spill response services and equipment has been available. Harmonised terms and conditions will help speed the process of getting essential spill response equipment on site as soon as possible”.

Matthew Sommerville, ISCO added:

“Timing is critical for a successful response. To avoid delay, the contract lets the parties sign and mobilise the response while negotiations continue on rates and charges. This mea
ns that the contracts can be negotiated in a matter of minutes and personnel and equipment can get to work immediately”.

The two contracts, RESPONSECON and US RESPONSECON, contracts are designed for spill incidents and enable those involved to obtain clean-up services and hire specialised personnel and equipment without delay.

The terms and conditions are set out in standard clauses with accompanying annexes for the different parties to insert detailed descriptions of the required services and rates for personnel and equipment.



Scientists Find Supermolecule that Removes Pharmaceuticals from Water

A University of Surrey academic is leading research that has found an effective way to monitor and remove pharmaceuticals from water.

The research involves the detection and removal of pharmaceuticals in or from water, as contamination from pharmaceuticals can enter the aquatic environment as a result of their use for the treatment of humans and animals. This contamination can be excreted unchanged, as metabolites, as unused discharge or by drug manufacturers.

The research has found that a new type of ‘supermolecule’, calix[4], actively seeks certain pharmaceuticals and removes them from water.

Contamination of water is a serious concern for environmental scientists around the world, as substances include hormones from the contraceptive pill, and pesticides and herbicides from allotments. Contamination can also include toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, or cadmium, which was previously used in paint, or substances that endanger vital species such as bees.

Professor Danil de Namor, University of Surrey Emeritus Professor and leader of the research, says preliminary extraction data are encouraging as far as the use of this receptor for the selective removal of these drugs from water and the possibility of constructing a calix[4]-based sensing devices.

“From here, we can design receptors so that they can bind selectively with pollutants in the water so the pollutants can be effectively removed,” says de Namor. “This research will allow us to know exactly what is in the water, and from here it will be tested in industrial water supplies, so there will be cleaner water for everyone.”

The research also creates the possibility of using these materials for on-site monitoring of water, without having to transport samples to the laboratory, according to de Namor.

University of Surrey co-investigator Dr Brendan Howlin says the study allows researchers to visualize the specific receptor-drug interactions leading to the selective behavior of the receptor.

“As well as the health benefits of this research, molecular simulation is a powerful technique that is applicable to a wide range of materials,” he says. “We were very proud that the work was carried out with PhD students and a final year project student, and research activities are already taking place with the Department of Chemical and Processing Engineering and the Advanced Technology Institute.

“We are also very pleased to see that as soon as the paper was published online by the European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, we received invitations to give keynote lectures at two international conferences on pharmaceuticals in Europe later this year,” says Howlin.

Hazmat Incident in St. Catharines results major evacuation

A June 12th traffic accident on the QEW Highway through St. Catharines, Ontario involving a tanker truck carrying phosphine resulted in a hazmat response and an order by police requiring the evacuation of all persons within a 2-km radius of the incident. No one was seriously injured in the accident and no phosphine, a toxic and highly flammable gas, was released.

The QEW Highway links the City of Toronto with Niagara Falls and runs through a City of St. Catharines, a community of 133,000 people. The hazmat incident began when the truck carrying phosphine flipped over on the highway. A fire broke out as a result of the rollover and it was not immediately evident if the product in the tanker’s trailer had leaked.

As a precaution, Ontario Provincial Police coordinating with hazmat crews from the City of St. Catharines ordered closed the highway and ordered the evacuation of all persons within a 2-km radius of the incident.

Phosphine, the chemical on the tanker truck that was involved in the incident, has a DOT hazard label of 4 (health – can be lethal), 4 (flammability – burns readily) and 2 (instability – readily undergoes violent chemical changes at elevated temperatures and pressures). It is colorless gas with a disagreeable odor of fish or garlic. It is very toxic by inhalation at extremely low concentrations.

After the initial incident, a hazardous goods cleanup crew from the City of Hamilton (approximately a 30-minute drive from away) later determined “the phosphine is contained and there is no leak,” Niagara Police Const. Phil Gavin told CP24, a local media outlet.

The initial evacuation order by police was set at 1.2 kilometres (1-mile) and then increased to a two-kilometre radius to reduce the public’s risk of exposure to the phosphine gas.

“We train for this type of this thing, all of the agencies train for this type of event, and we were prepared to come to the community’s needs and their help,” said St. Catharines fire Chief Dave Wood during a media event Wednesday morning.

He said everyday there are hazardous materials and chemicals carried up and down the highways but noted legislation is strict regarding how it must be contained and what type of containers it can be shipped in.

“Unfortunately, situations do happen,” the Fire Chief said. “Accidents do happen.”