How can a wide-area instrumented system boost radiation hazard training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

In the event of a known or suspected radiation accident or incident, the speed of response will be a critical factor in maximising the safety and wellbeing of people and the environment.

Understanding the nature and the significance of the radiation threat is key.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Nuclear and Radiological Event Severity Scale (INES) provides an invaluable reference for radiological personnel by prioritising radiological incidents or accidents according to seven levels of severity.

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Severity Scale (INES)

At the least severe end of the INES scale is what is termed a Level 1 Anomaly – which can include events such as the radiological exposure of a member of the public in excess of statutory annual limits, a minor problem with safety components or the loss or theft of a low-activity radioactive source.

Incident levels 2 and 3 on the scale cover such events as a significant failure in the provision of radiological safety, the inadequate packaging or misdelivery of a highly radioactive sealed source or the loss or theft of a highly radioactive sealed source.

An accident where there is a high probability of significant public exposure (such as a release of a significant quantity of radioactive material) is classed as a Level 4 Accident with Local Consequences.

The release of a large quantity of radioactive material (such as a fire within a nuclear reactor) is termed to be an INES Level 5 Accident with Wider Consequences.

A Level 6 Serious Accident refers to the significant release of radioactive material where there is the likelihood of the need for planned countermeasures.

A Major Accident (Level 7) is typified by a major release of radioactive material where there is the risk of widespread health and environmental effects. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident and the 200 Fukushima Nuclear Accident were both deemed to be level 7 incidents on the INES scale.

Enhancing radiological preparedness

Providing the opportunity for realistic hands-on training is a key factor in ensuring that personnel both achieve and maintain the required level of radiological preparedness.

Finding practical and affordable ways to deliver this desired authenticity of training however, can often prove challenging.

Radiological instructors have become well accustomed to juggling a multitude of environmental, health and safety regulations and budgetary considerations.

Often training decisions can come down to one of two choices: to enlist the services of a radiation control technician (RCT) who can oversee the safe execution of the exercise – or to opt for the use of a smaller button source which emits a vastly reduced amount of radiation activity but which can compromise the realism of the exercise.

Simulator detectors, which replicate the look and feel of actual detectors, have proven to be an invaluable asset in the training in the fundamentals of radiation.

But if an instructor wishes to take things further and plan out a whole scenario then it may be desirable to consider other options.

Wide-area instrumented training in real time

Integrated wide-area instrumented simulator training systems such as Argon Electronics’ PlumeSIM and PlumeSIM-SMART, are providing radiological instructors with the ability to deliver even more realistic, rigorous and repeatable radiation training experiences.

Incorporating the use of a simulator training system into radiological exercises has been shown to offer substantial advantages, both for trainee and trainer.

Radiation scenarios can be staged in an unlimited variety of locations including public areas, community institutions, government buildings or enclosed spaces such as an aircraft or armoured vehicle.

When recreating the conditions of a radiological plume, the instructor has the power to predetermine every detail – be it the specific nuclide, the release time, latitude and longitude, the release rate, the source height, the source radius and the release duration.

Depending on the objectives of the exercise, and/or the availability of resources, scenarios can also be conducted live or virtually – with the option for trainers to test their trainees’ skills both in table-top mode or in a field exercise.

Instructors can select the equipment that they wish to be used in the scenario – and they can allocate specific items of equipment to individual team members. In addition it is also easy to simulate all the possible errors that the trainee could make when using their equipment.

The addition of an instructor remote ensures that the trainer retains total control throughout the duration of the exercise, with the option to manage and manipulate a wide range of environmental factors such as the level of remaining contamination, persistency, and changes in wind and weather conditions.

Powerful after action review (AAR) provides an invaluable resource which enables trainer and trainee to replay and scrutinise the key events of an exercise and to verify each student’s performance.

Integrated live training systems such as PlumeSIM enable radiological safety instructors to ramp up the level of realism of their exercises by simulating lethal threat levels and testing their trainees’ multi-threat training capability.

When budgets are tight, the use of a subscription-based training option such as Argon’s Plume-SIM Smart can also offer a viable alternative to purchasing a training system outright – by removing the need for expensive equipment or consumables, and with no requirement for calibration, maintenance or repair.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Preparing Post-Construction Cleanup Sites for Natural Disasters

The United States Association of State and Territorial Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) CERCLA Post Construction Focus Group has developed a checklist called, Preparing Post-Construction Cleanup Sites for Natural Disasters, which is intended to help States in identifying efficient and effective measures for preparation in advance of potential natural disasters to aid in the identification of likely concerns following a natural disaster. The information provided on the checklist can be used to identify and respond to changed conditions at sites to support action to ensure protectiveness of human health and the environment.

Purpose of the Checklist

The purpose of this checklist is to provide a planning tool for post-construction sites (sites) in the event of a natural disaster. The checklist was developed for CERCLA post-construction sites; however, it may also be used for similar “non-CERCLA” post-construction sites. The checklist includes site-specific information that should be considered prior to and post natural disaster event to streamline site security, minimize damage to remedy components, and reduce the risk of site-related environmental impacts. The checklist does not replace Health
and Safety Plans (HASP), Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), or other site-specific / programmatic guidance documents. Site managers are encouraged to complete the checklist following review of these guidance documents, and incorporate supporting information, as  appropriate.

Recommendations

Based upon the development of this checklist, the team recommends the following practices that will help States be prepared to react following a natural disaster:
• Pre-event planning: Assess site conditions to compile site specific details to complete the checklist prior to a natural disaster.
• Pre-event information: Identify and collect site plans/data and contact information so the information is readily available should a disaster occur. Periodically review this information to ensure that it is current.
• Post-event information: Use the checklist to identify conditions that require action/repair and track planned actions.

The team also recommends considering the use of a version of this checklist for sites that may be in active cleanup stages.

 

About the ASTSWMO CERCLA CPC FG

The ASTSWMO CERCLA Post Construction Focus Group (CPC FG) is comprised of State and Territorial (State) members from all United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions. This checklist was prepared by the ASTSWMO CPC FG, under Cooperative Agreement 83870001 with the U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI).

The mission of the ASTSWMO CPC FG is to promote facilitation and maintenance of reliable, effective, and protective remedies constructed at contaminated sites, to include identification of the resources necessary following remedy construction, and to communicate State program strategies effectively among interested parties.

Saskatchewan’s Accelerated Site Closure Program Announces New Details

Written by Brad Gilmour, Keely Cameron, Stephanie Ridge, and Kassandra Devolin, Bennett Jones

On June 26, 2020, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources (the Ministry) released new details regarding its Accelerated Site Closure Program (ASCP). The ASCP will administer $400 million in funds from the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for Canada’s Energy Sector. The ASCP will distribute funds to Saskatchewan-based service companies completing abandonment and reclamation work in the province.

The June 26, 2020 update was included within the Ministry’s ASCP Questions and Answers document, which is updated regularly and provides key instructions on the operation of the ASCP.

Phase 1 Funding Allocation Complete

As of May 29, 2020, the $100 million available in Phase 1 had been completely allocated. Licensees were notified of their allocated funding amount via email on June 1, 2020.

Licensee Nomination Process Opens

With funding allocation amounts in hand, licensees can now proceed to nominating wells and facilities through the Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS). On June 26, 2020, the Ministry provided further guidance regarding the nomination process, including a supplemental guide and online training module. The Ministry recommends these resources are reviewed prior to completing applications on IRIS.

Notably, the ASCP does not require licensees to nominate their projects on a first come, first serve basis. The funding allocated to licensees in Phase 1 will remain with the licensees until the amount is used or the program ends in December 2022.

The Ministry has also provided templates which can be uploaded into IRIS during this process, including a preferred vendor and site nomination template. The site nomination template is intended to be used on a project basis, allowing licensees to nominate specific stages of work within a project. Licensees can also substitute, remove or add wells during the nomination process. With regards to preferred vendors, licensees are able to select service companies on a project basis.

Eligible Service Company Pre-Qualification is Ongoing

Eligible service companies may pre-qualify to bid on area-based work packages once procurement contracts tendered to nominated sites have been released. The Ministry will issue a Business Associate (BA) code to all prequalified service companies. Licensees will be able select their preferred vendors within the system on the condition they have a BA code. Service company codes will be updated throughout the process, and a current listing is available on the ASCP website.

There are three additional updates of note with regard to eligible service companies.

  1. Contractors have not yet been selected for the ASCP. Contractors can apply through SaskTenders and their eligibility will be determined based on the program’s criteria. The Ministry also clarified that companies and vendors listed on the Saskatchewan Industrial & Mining Suppliers Association Inc. website are not prequalified for the ASCP by virtue of being included on that list. Similarly, the vendor pre-qualification process for the orphan fund program is applicable only to the orphan fund program. Contractors will need to apply for the ASCP separately.
  2. Pre-qualification period opened on June 15, 2020. Service companies may now apply for ASCP eligibility by completing a Request for Service Qualifications (RFSQ) on SaskTenders.
  3. Generally, only bidders require pre-qualification. The Ministry has confirmed that businesses supporting ASCP activities, such as subcontractors or small, individually staffed companies that do not intend to bid on area-based work packages offered for bid, are not required to apply for pre-qualification or complete the RFSQ. However, companies must still be Saskatchewan based and otherwise eligible to receive ASCP funds.

Notwithstanding, the Ministry has identified that companies delivering services (as opposed to supporting their delivery) in the following major service areas are expected to prequalify for the RFSQ:

  • well decommissioning activities, including service rig operations, wellsite supervision, coil tubing, wireline, fluid hauling and disposal, cut and cap, pressure testing, cementation and service maintenance, downhole tools; and
  • remediation and reclamation activities, such as initial environmental assessment (i.e., Phase 1), detailed site assessment, environmental contracting (i.e., heavy equipment, transport and waste disposal).

Licensee Responsibilities Elaborated

The Ministry has also provided further information regarding the role of licensees in the ASCP. Notably, licensees are encouraged, to the greatest extent possible, to nominate routine wells. This is defined as projects which are routine from a regulatory perspective, with the overall intent being to decrease the time spent processing applications. Where non-routine projects are nominated, licensees are advised to submit infrastructure projects where there are no known or foreseeable issues which could increase costs or project duration. A general expectation of the ASCP is that nominated projects may be completed in a timely manner and in accordance with expected costs.

As part of the ASCP, licensees will also be expected to follow applicable regulations and directives with regard to abandonment and reclamation. Licensees will be responsible for updating IRIS with all relevant reporting requirements.

Moving Forward

At this time, the Ministry has not announced its plans for next phases, including criteria for distribution or the funds available. The Questions and Answers indicates additional details will depend on the execution and initial results of Phase 1 of the ASCP.


About the Authors

Brad Gilmour is head of the firm’s regulatory department and co-head of the environmental department. His practice focuses primarily on environmental, energy, regulatory and aboriginal law.

Keely Cameron is an experienced legal counsel with a solid business background. She has a proven track record for finding innovative solutions and generating value. Keely helps clients on both commercial litigation, insolvency and regulatory matters.

Stephanie Ridge has a general regulatory law practice with an emphasis on environmental, Aboriginal, and regulatory law. She has experience with matters and proceedings before the National Energy Board, Alberta Energy Regulator, and Alberta Utilities Commission.

Kassandra Devolin is a Summer Student a Bennett Jones.

 

What are the key innovations transforming CBRNe simulator training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

The use of simulators and simulations to deliver CBRNe training is recognised as being a highly effective way to immerse trainees in environments that are as close as possible to those that they will experience in real life.

Simulator training provides a safe way for CBRNe personnel to test their knowledge and skills in the context of real-world examples.

Crucially too, trainees are able to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes, without risk to their own personal health, the environment or infrastructure.

As the threat posed by CBRNe materials continues to expand and evolve, the demand for hyper-realistic live-training capability is ever-growing.

The technology that underpins the provision of simulator training is also constantly expanding, as CBRNe instructors demand an even deeper level of authenticity.

In this blog post we explore some of the newest capabilities that are transforming the CBRNe training landscape.

Live-training capability

The highly practical nature of live-training offers benefits across a wide array of CBRNe disciplines – from Special Forces and border security to civilian emergency preparedness, the provision of medical services and law enforcement.

Gaining familiarity with CBRNe materials and their respective properties – and understanding the measures that must be taken to protect oneself and others – are core elements of CBRNe general awareness.

Building confidence in the handling of detection technologies is also crucial – whether it be to better understand the capabilities or limitations of currently available detection equipment, to explore newly emerging detector technologies or to put that equipment to the test in realistic, hands-on detection exercises.

Live-training provides the opportunity to develop and apply a broad range of CBRNe incident response practices under the most realistically challenging conditions possible.

Till recently, however, the practicalities of offering live-training have been limited by the need to comply with a host of essential safety, environmental, regulatory and administrative considerations.

One new training system that has taken on the live-training challenge is the Saab Gamer CBRN interface which integrates Saab’s Gamer live firing capability with Argon’s PlumeSIM technology.

The newly enhanced PlumeSIM system supports the simulation of chemical and radiological agents and enables the use of simulated portable survey meters such as the Mirion / CanberraAN/VDR-2,AN/PDR-77/RDS100 and simulated personal dosimeters such as the Mirion / Canberra UDR13 and UDR14.

For trainees there is the advantage of being able to experience the full functionality of their equipment and their PPE in highly realistic environments. While for trainers, there is the benefit of retaining full control of every aspect of the exercise from set-up to After Action Review (AAR.)

Integration with actual detector equipment

Working with real detector equipment can be invaluable in helping trainees gain greater confidence in the operation of their devices, and a deeper level of trust in the reliability of the measurements that they obtain.

At the same time though, it is important that any training that includes the use of actual equipment can be done without compromising operational readiness. Avoiding costly and time-consuming routine maintenance, calibration, running repairs or replacement of damaged items is key.

Recently however there have been developments in the technology that underpins radiological training which makes it possible for CBRNe instructors to deliver highly realistic radiation exercises that use actual detector equipment but with zero risk to the functionality or the integrity of those devices.

One such example is the Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS).

At the heart of the RaFTS patented technology is an intelligent external device that is mounted directly onto a trainee’s own radiological detection system and that interacts directly with the detector’s internal circuitry.

The highly-realistic output, the quality of the data and the level statistical randomness is as life-like as it gets – enabling trainees to test their knowledge and skills in identifying a radioactive source, measuring its intensity and determining its location.

Crucially too, RaFTS universal capability can be applied across a diverse range of hazards and instrument types – including chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and explosives – making it possible for instructors to deliver an all-in-one CBRNe training solution for multiple devices.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Effective Communication: Environmental Site Assessments

Written by Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

I recently spent time dealing with the frustration of really poor communication from a variety of service providers.  In contrast I also recently attended a post-report meeting with a new client, whose first comment was how pleased they were with the level of communication.  From my viewpoint, I was also quite happy with the speedy and effective responses I received from this client throughout the project.  These vastly different experiences led me to consider some suggestions for improving and maintaining good communication between clients and consultants.

 You can’t tell the players without a program ….

In transactional due diligence work, there can be many stakeholders from vendors, buyers and agents, to lawyers, banks and regulators.  Each stakeholder may have their own unique objectives which can sometimes oppose those of other players in the transaction; often leaving the consultant in the middle.  This can be counterproductive and lead to potentially serious misunderstanding and miscommunication.  Consultants owe a legal and ethical duty of care to their client, and must know who their client is (individual, company, consortium), what their objectives and timeframe are, and whether other stakeholders are involved. If second or third parties are to be involved, this must be clearly defined at the start of the project, to ensure the necessary information can be shared where appropriate, and a letter of reliance can be prepared if necessary.  Establishing a clear channel of communication between client, consultant and other parties is also important.  Any requirements for confidentiality or legal privilege should also be set out in advance.  Repetitive ‘reply all’ e-mail chains and getting caught in a lengthy multi-party decision making process should be avoided.

Timely communication is key

On any project timely communication is paramount, and even more so when due diligence deadlines are present.  Information presented by a consultant after the closing of a real estate transaction may be important, but if received too late it may be un-useable.  If the consultant was aware of the data, but failed to deliver in time, they could be negligent or in breach of contract and subject to litigation.  Similarly, delays in responses or project approval from client to consultant can result in cost over-runs, duplication of work, and failure to meet established deadlines.  Both parties need to set clear timelines for project milestones and to prepare contingency plans for unforeseen obstacles. Some unplanned events can be accounted for (such as delays in utility locates), others come out of left field and we have to adjust as best we can (such as a pandemic lock-down). It’s equally important to state at the time of proposal/award a clearly defined scope of work, budget and contingency allowances, a mutually-agreed approval procedure for project extras, and all payment terms.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say!

Environmental reporting can be complex and full of scientific data and technical jargon. As a consultant, ensure you are speaking plainly so that your target audience can understand.  Some stakeholders are interested primarily in the ‘big picture’, while others are very detail-oriented. I have some clients who had never heard the term Environmental Site Assessment until they purchased a commercial property; and others that could fully describe all the required protocols to complete a Modified Generic Risk Assessment. Know your audience and tailor your approach to their level of technical comprehension.  Clients must also clearly communicate their goals, objectives, timeframes and required comfort level to their consultant.  Both sides should ask questions when needed, and request a detailed explanation when things are unclear.  It helps to have everything in writing to avoid future discrepancies, especially for project changes or extra work items. For any client, if your service provider isn’t giving you answers, or doesn’t explain things to your satisfaction; perhaps it’s time to find one that does.


About the Author

Bill Leedham is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at [email protected]

U.S.: Aligning Affordable Housing and Brownfields Projects for Success

Written by Nicholas Targ, Partner and Co-chair of Holland & Knight’s National Environmental Team and Chelsea Maclean, Partner, Holland & Knight

Affordable housing and infill developers can benefit from recently enacted housing laws and Brownfields law and policies. These new laws along with national-caliber land use and environmental help can deliver affordable housing and infill projects faster and can substantially simplify the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and development process.

New Housing Laws Benefit Affordable Housing and Other Infill Developers

The following three examples demonstrate the power of the new housing laws:

  • SB 375 Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA): A litigation-tested CEQA streamlining tool, SCEA helped an affordable housing developer client meet tight funding deadlines for a large affordable housing project and reduce litigation risk. The SCEA document is similar in scope to a typical Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration, but includes the more protective “substantial evidence standard” of review of an Environmental Impact Report.
  • SB 35 Ministerial Processing Combined with AB 1764 Unlimited Density Bonus: The powerful SB 35 statute, which provides for ministerial/CEQA exempt approval, was layered with AB 1763, which provides for unlimited density under the State Density Bonus Law, for a client’s 125-unit infill project. After reviewing the use of the new housing laws with the city attorney’s office and Planning Department, the affordable housing provider gained approval for its housing project.
  • AB 1804 County Infill Exemption: This 2018 CEQA exemption for infill projects in unincorporated counties provided an affordable housing provider client with an accelerated entitlement pathway for its mixed-use affordable housing/community serving medical clinic project.

Attention to Brownfields Issues, and Alignment of Environmental and Housing/CEQA Laws is the Winning Combination

The new housing and CEQA streamlining laws frequently include special requirements for a project to be built on environmentally impacted land (e.g., SB 35, CEQA Class 32 Categorical Exemption for Urban Infill Housing). Moreover, given the recent ratcheting-down of vapor intrusion environmental screening levels, careful attention to Brownfields issues can mean the difference between success, delay and/or cost overruns.

The use of key Brownfields tools such as insurance, streamlined regulatory processes and avoidance of legal and environmental “land mines” (e.g., Cortese List, late discovered contamination) can make all of the difference. Successful infill projects – especially affordable housing projects, which carry higher regulatory and public scrutiny – are those that evaluate Brownfields issues early in the decision-making process.

Recent successful use of Brownfields tools to advance affordable and infill housing and associated projects include:

  • Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) Decision Document: The PEA assessment process allowed the state environmental agency to conclude at an early stage in the development process that no further action was required at a client’s affordable housing site, and to establish a workable and environmentally protective set of construction requirements.
  • California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act (CLRRA): Reauthorized in 2016, CLRRA was used to streamline the regulatory cleanup path for a client’s project and to provide qualified environmental immunities. Integrating the cleanup plan into the CEQA document, as a mitigation measure, litigation risk was reduced and regulatory certainty increased.
  • Comfort Letter: A state environmental agency’s “comfort letter” established that a release of the emerging chemical of concern – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS – was not sourced from a client’s affordable housing site based on environmental assessment. The letter further stated that the health of residents and construction crews would be protected, provided appropriate steps were followed. The comfort letter was critical to securing a broadly protective environmental insurance policy and allowing the affordable housing developer’s project to move forward.

Conclusion

It is recommended that housing developers consider careful alignment of the new housing laws, CEQA/National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance processes and Brownfields issues. Misalignment, especially for affordable housing projects, can result in avoidable problems ranging from those related to financing and making key milestones to conveyance/take down terms and selection of regulatory pathway for entitlement and environmental compliance.

Working with both nonprofit affordable housing providers and market developers, who produce workforce housing and infill projects, Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group has helped guide the regulatory pathway for numerous affordable and mixed-income projects over the years across California. Holland & Knight has built a housing litigation practice with a strong record of success, and has particular strength in assisting municipalities in the appropriate use of these new housing laws to accelerate project implementation. Combining deep land use and environmental knowledge, and a highly developed housing/CEQA litigation practice, Holland & Knight lawyers have decades of experience helping nonprofit and other affordable housing and infill developers achieve success from initial diligence to opening day.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.


For additional information or assistance, contact the authors or a member of Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group.

About the West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group: Holland & Knight’s Chambers-ranked West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group includes more than 25 attorneys and professionals in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., who are dedicated to producing results for their clients. Our environmental, land use, real estate, finance and litigation attorneys and policy professionals work as one team, ensuring that the person with the right experience is addressing the issue. Our attorneys are consistently nationally ranked in publications such as U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” guide and Chambers. In addition to deep private sector experience, many of our attorneys have agency and legislative backgrounds, including working at the White House, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, Congress, and state and local government.

 

 

 

Scientific advancements in oil spill containment

The United States Coast Guard recently reported that an innovative sub surface oil containment and recovery system, installed in April 2019 over a damaged oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, is successfully preventing more than 1,000 gallons of oil per day from entering the environment. Scientific research and lessons learned following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have allowed the development of unique oil spill response systems such as this to help protect the maritime environment from future threats.

In 2004 during Hurricane Ivan the Taylor Energy Mississippi Canyon 20 (MC20) oil platform toppled creating an ongoing flow of oil into the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists from multiple government agencies and academic institutions, conducted cutting-edge studies that determined the location, source, and amount of oil and gas emitting from the site.

Utilizing remote sensing technologies such as drones, satellites, and underwater vehicles in combination with on-site in-situ sampling and chemical analysis, scientists were better able to characterize the oil release.

Two separate studies conducted in 2017 determined that the oil and gas were discharging from multiple plumes in a discrete location rather than over a wide area. In 2018, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration undertook a follow-up study to determine the chemical characterization of the release, and to generate a flowrate (amount of oil and gas spilling in a given period of time) estimate for the site.

These studies helped determine that oil was leaking from the damaged infrastructure and could be contained, and that more than 1,000 gallons of oil per day was being released. This was substantially greater than the previously asserted 3-5 gallons per day.

The United States Coast Guard assumed partial control of the Taylor Energy oil spill response after repeated past attempts failed to stop, or contain, the flow of oil in the years since the platform with 25 producing wells were toppled and buried in sediment.

The Coast Guard, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, oversaw the design, installation and operation of a Rapid Response Solution (RRS) subsurface system designed by the Louisiana based Couvillon Group.

The containment and collection system was developed and implemented in only 5 months in order to quickly stem the flow of oil. The system has recovered more than 375,000 gallons of oil since it was installed. Environmental protection continues, with the Coast Guard overseeing continuous oil collection and containment system maintenance.

These scientific research was a collaborative efforts of the inter-agency team of oil spill responders and scientific experts. The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will continue to support the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement efforts to ensure that the Taylor Energy wells are properly plugged and a permanent solution is reached.

Oil Spill Dispersants Market Surpass $23.6 Billion By 2026

According to a recent market report by Acumen Research Consulting, the global Oil Spill Dispersants market size is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate above 3 % over the forecast time frame and reach the market value around USD 23.6 billion by 2026.

The term oil spill is a common term used in the contamination, by accident or human error, of water, land or earth by oil pouring or release. Oil sources are distributed throughout the world, and are drilled both onshore and offshore. Since oil is an essential source of energy, it is very important that oil is distributed and transported consistently. Oil is mainly transported by seaside vessels and land pipelines. Most accidents occur during the shipment of oil, transport and pipeline breakages or during land boiling. Small-scale oil spills take place regularly and can be easily and quickly controlled.

Dispersants contain detergents which help break oil into small droplets that can become diluted in the ocean. They also contain an organic solvent that helps the detergents mix with both the oil and water (Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The market is mainly driven by frequent oil spills and the crucial importance of reducing the after effects on the environment of oil spills. These dispersants work in steady weather, since the efficiency of dispersants is reduced by high tides. Such limitations of oil discharges are the main restrictive factors on the global market for oil discharges.

The growth of the market of petroleum discharges depends directly on frequency, duration and volume of the oil discharges. Since the last decade, there has been a decrease of large oil spills every year, but very frequent small-scale oil spills are mainly driving the market for oil spills. Furthermore, a consistent selection of new petroleum resources and new oil plants will further boost the growth of the petroleum spill market. Another driving factor for the global market for oil spills is stringent government rules and penalties for reinforcing the response to oil spill.

Application Stance

The market share of offshore oil dispersant applications for the application segment was more than 70% in 2017. Similarly, it is estimated that the onshore application sector will grow steadily as newly identified onshore oil sources and frequent oil spills occur during transport or drilling of the oil. Onshore petroleum production accounts for 70 percent, which is projected to increase in the coming years. The demand for oil spill dissipators in onshore spill areas will be further increased.

Asia-Pacific Hold the prominent Share in the market

Geographically speaking, Asia Pacific will lead the global market for oil spillers driven by increased oil demand in the region and increased production pressures on petroleum companies to explore further existing offshore and onshore petroleum sources. Such explorations are certainly expected to have some incidents due to failure or human error in technology / equipment. Middle East & Africa is similar to the Asia-Pacific region, and a major part of the world’s oil demand is made of it. Global financial, trade and political pressures in terms of oil production and demand will certainly compel oil companies to take risks as they explore new petroleum sources.

ACME Environmental is Likely to Continue to Lead the Global Oil Spill Dispersants Market

The Oil Spill Dispersants market is consolidated with large number of manufacturers. The company profiling of key players in the market includes major business strategies, company overview and revenues. The key players of the market are ACME Environmental, Inc., Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Canadyne Technologies, Canadyne Technologies, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S, Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Inc, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S.

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment: Unexpected COVID-19 Victim?

Written by David Quigley and Bryan Williamson, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Summer Gell, Partner Engineering and
Science, Inc.

A number of commentators note the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the commercial and residential real estate markets. Some are obvious: falling interest rates, bargain hunting by investors (and some lenders) and a very different foreclosure environment.1 Recently, a less obvious impact emerged, as these lenders/servicers, investors and purchasers struggle with how to assess the environmental condition of the underlying assets. This brief alert provides answers to some frequently asked questions about phase I ESAs in the COVID-19 era.

Can I still do an ESA?

A number of states and some localities promulgated stay-at-home orders prohibiting all but “essential activities” for the next few weeks, if not months (and perhaps longer). Though each state is different, and must be analyzed as such, a number of the restrictions provide lists of industries or activities that are “essential” and therefore exempt from shelter-in-place mandates. For example, an initial Virginia executive order allows professional services firms to remain open, provided that they adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhance sanitizing practices on common services and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.2 Other states, like Illinois, delineate essential categories, including real estate and legal services, as “essential.”3 These approaches at least implicitly seem to allow for the conduct of ESAs (and ESAs are still taking place). Many states allow consultants to apply for an explicit authorization if squeamish about moving forward. (Note that while some states allow for environmental investigation as part of remediation activities, this may not encompass the typical phase I ESA).4

Beyond these states permitting consulting or related services directly, other states may allow for a phase I ESA where it “supports” a different service deemed “essential,” such as financing, particularly for a transaction that supports the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, hazardous materials and waste sectors.5 Still other states omit ESAs from stay-at-home orders entirely, raising complicated questions of interpretation.

If I can do an ESA, what will it look like?

If your state or locality allows for an ESA, that does not mean it is business-as-usual. As with other services in the COVID-19 era, commonsense efforts should be taken to minimize personal contact before, during and after site assessments. These measures may include adherence to social distancing guidelines; driving (not flying) to sites when possible; proper use of personal protective equipment; and wireless or pre-arranged access to tenant suites or interior building areas. Interviews should be conducted remotely, where feasible. To the extent possible, spaces to be viewed by the consultant should be “cleared” of people for three or more days prior to arrival. If, as will often be the case, this is not possible, then the consultant may seek to restrict her “walk-through” to vacant or limited areas of the facility.6

With all these restrictions, is the ESA “legal”?

While they likely did not have a pandemic in mind, the existing federal regulations and the industry standard governing ESAs already provide for deviations to normal operating procedures. Specifically, the phase I standards include a mechanism through which consultants identify “data gaps” encountered during environmental investigations.7 Historically, data gaps include inadequate records detailing adjacent sites, unreturned interview questionnaires and missing information about physical objects identified at the site (e.g., pipes, vents, tanks). Given the COVID-19 disruption, we expect to see a number of additions to these traditional data gaps, such as: limited or no access to interior areas; inability to locate and interview key personnel; and inability to access regulatory records or obtain Freedom of Information Act responses from government agencies due to staffing reductions and office closures. Much like the interruptions caused by governmental delays and flight cancellations experienced in aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and office closures seen during the Great Recession, external forces are likely to hamper even the most diligent and experienced consultants.

The fact that these data gaps exist does not render the phase I invalid (necessarily). As always, it is up to the environmental professional to determine whether any identified data gaps are “significant,” such that they affect “the ability of the environmental professional to identify conditions indicative of releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, and as applicable, pollutants and contaminants, petroleum or petroleum products, or controlled substances, on, at, in, or to the subject property.”8 Often, experienced consultants can identify other sources of information to resolve any data gaps, such as owner/user interviews or government and third-party environmental databases. Regardless of the significance of identified data gaps, however, consultants must be sure to document and evaluate any data gaps within the text of the ESA report.

OK, it’s “legal.” But is it useful?

Assuming you get an ESA with a number of data gaps, questions will arise as to its utility in evaluating environmental risk. Your counsel and consultants can identify site-specific approaches to find alternative sources of information to “fill” data gaps or at least “put a box around” the potential liability resulting therefrom. Beyond that, the usefulness of the assessment will depend on the use for which it is intended.

If you are trying to determine or allocate risk to close a deal, the above strategies may suffice (or at least may allow for the procurement of insurance to close the deal). If you are looking for financing, it likely will depend on the specific bank. Some may require complete or even more fulsome information than usual as they struggle to measure and manage risk in a pandemic-impacted world. Others may feel comfortable moving forward given the “cost” of money currently, even if they may include more detailed “update” provisions or requirements allowing them to get a clearer picture down the road. If you are looking for protection from Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) liability, that path is still developing. While EPA announced in March that it may exercise discretion in enforcing specific instances of noncompliance with some environmental laws, this policy explicitly does not apply to “activities that are carried out under Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action enforcement instruments.”9 At this time, it is not yet clear what, if any, relief will be provided through CERCLA’s innocent landowner and lender liability requirements.


1 Christopher Rugaber, Federal Reserve Cuts Interest Rate to Near Zero in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak, TIME, Mar. 15, 2020, https://time.com/5803563/federal-reserve-interest-rate-cut-zero/; Katy O’Donnell, HUD, Fannie, Freddie suspend foreclosures, evictions during outbreak, POLITICO, Mar. 18, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/18/hud-suspends-foreclosures-evictions-coronavirus-135783.

2 Virg. Exec. Order No. 53 (March 23, 2020), https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-53-Temporary-Restrictions-Due-To-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf. Similarly, Washington state published lists of “critical” sectors and examples of essential personnel permitted to work during the crisis. Wash. Proclamation 20-25 (March 23, 2020), https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/WA%20Essential%20Critical%20Infrastructure%20Workers%20%28Final%29.pdf.

3 See, e.g., Ill. Exec. Order No. 2020-10 (March 20, 2020), https://www2.illinois.gov/Documents/ExecOrders/2020/ExecutiveOrder-2020-10.pdf (deeming “professional services” essential, including legal and real estate services).

4 See, e.g., “COVID-19: Essential Services,” Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services#health-care/-public-health-/-human-services- (deeming essential “[l]icensed site clean-up professionals and other workers addressing hazardous spills, waste sites, and remediation”).

5 Wash. Proclamation 20-25, supra note 3.

6 Still, many components of the phase I ESA report, such as historical use and satellite reviews, environmental database searches, lien and title searches, phone interviews, and electronic questionnaires, should remain unaffected.

7 According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “all appropriate inquiries” (AAI) rule and ASTM Practice E-1527-13, a data gap is “a lack of or inability” to obtain required information “despite good faith efforts.” 40 C.F.R. § 312.10; ASTM E-1527-13 § 12.7.

8 U.S. ENVTL. PROTECTION AGENCY, ALL APPROPRIATE INQUIRIES RULE: REPORTING REQUIREMENTS CHECKLIST FOR ASSESSMENT GRANT RECIPIENTS (2014), https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-08/documents/aai-reporting-fact-sheet-and-checklist-062111-final.pdf.

9 Memorandum from Susan Parker Bodine, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, to All Governmental and Private Sector Partners (Mar. 26, 2020), https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/oecamemooncovid19implications.pdf, at 2. Similarly, some states, such as Texas, also announced their intention to provide limited enforcement relief during this crisis. See “TCEQ Reporting Requirements for Regulated Entities,” Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (last visited Apr. 9, 2020), https://www.tceq.texas.gov/response/covid-19/regulated-entities-reporting-requirements (announcing the Commission’s exercise of “administrative relief and enforcement discretion for various reporting requirements by regulated entities” during the COVID-19 pandemic).


About the Authors

David Quigley advises lenders, sellers and buyers on evaluating the environmental liabilities associated with commercial, multifamily and industrial transactions. He develops solutions that are cost-effective and realistic in terms of the role of client as lender and the value of the property or portfolio.

Bryan C. Williamson is an environmental and natural resources lawyer, advising and representing clients on a range of environmental regulatory, transactional and litigation matters. His experience extends to issues involving federal and state environmental protection laws.

Summer Gell is a principal at Partner Engineering and Science, Inc. who leverages her 25+ years of experience and background as an environmental scientist to provide valuable solutions to her clients’ environmental and engineering due diligence needs. Summer is an expert on all things Freddie and Fannie, having worked on hundreds of agency and multifamily deals in recent years. She also serves as the national account manager for several CMBS lenders and life companies.

EHS software market to reach $2 billion in 2025

According to a market research report prepared by Verdantix, the global market for Environmental, Health & Safety Software is expected to grow from $1.35 billion in 2020 to $2.2 billion in 2025.  Verdantix forecasts that the 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years will be driven by private equity and consumer demand for innovation.  North America will contribute over half (51%) of overall global spend on EHS software at $691 million in 2020.​​​​​​

The report states that there are twelve vendors that lead the EHS software market as follows: Enablon, Intelex, Cority, Velocity EHS, Sphera, UL, Gensuite, SAI Global, ETQ, Enviance, IsoMetrix and Quentic.  Verdantix assessed the capabilities of the 23 most prominent vendors in the market on their ability to meet customer demands to manage risks and improve business performance across EHS impact areas.

“Industry-leading firms are looking to the EHS function to guide digital transformation within their operations, and this benchmark illustrates how digital solutions in the market differ in terms of capabilities and momentum,” commented Yaowen Jean Ma, Senior Analyst, Verdantix. “As a result, we are seeing a surge in mergers, acquisitions and investments in the EHS software market, as vendors look to create advantage in this market, which is set to be worth $1.9bn in 2024.”

The Verdantix 2019 Green Quadrant EHS Software is the only independent benchmark of EHS software vendors available. The study findings are based on a 383-point questionnaire, live product demonstrations and a survey of 411 customers.

Leading vendors are demonstrating various competitive advantages within specific modular categories, such as, ETQ for quality and document management, Enviance for air emissions management, IsoMetrix and SAI Global for contractor safety management, Sphera and VelocityEHS for chemicals compliance management, and UL for GHG emissions and sustainability management.

The need to align Operational Risk and EHS functions is a key success factor for new entrants from an Operational Risk management software background, such as INX Software, TenForce and VisiumKMS.

“The EHS software market is entering a new phase of growth where cloud-hosted deployment, configurability and vendors offering mobile applications are becoming the new normal,” added Yaowen. “Vendors will face increasing pressure to rapidly expand market share and strengthen profitability, which will lead to an increase in vendors investment in technology integrations that expand their capabilities beyond their core competencies.”

Verdantix Senior Analyst Bill Pennington provided insight on the drivers for the growth in EHS software sales: “With EHS functions increasingly focusing on innovation, such as the continued shift from on-premise to SaaS deployment and an increased presence of dedicated IoT safety platforms, this is driving the appetite for spending on EHS technologies.”