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U.S. EPA Green Remediation Best Management Practices

Excavation and Site Remediation

Excavation of soil, sediment or waste material is often undertaken at contaminated sites to address immediate risk to human health or the environment; prepare for implementation of remediation technologies and construction of supporting infrastructure; and address contaminant hot spots in soil or sediment.

The excavation and subsequent backfilling processes rely on use of heavy earth-moving machinery and often involve managing large volumes of material. Many opportunities exist to reduce the environmental footprint of the various cleanup activities and improve ultimate restoration of the disturbed land, surface water and ecosystems.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Fact Sheet outlines specific best management practices (BMPs) that can be used to minimize the environmental footprint concerning emission of air pollutants and use of water, energy, and other resources at excavation sites. The refined set of BMPs is based on recent experiences reported by regulators, property owners, cleanup service contractors and other stakeholders in the cleanup community.

Sites with Leaking Underground Storage Tank Systems

The U.S. EPA estimates that approximately 65,450 releases of petroleum or hazardous substances from federally regulated underground storage tanks (USTs) had not yet reached the “cleanup completed” milestone as of September 2018.  The Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) estimates that in 2017, alone, state cleanup funds collectively spent approximately $1.113 billion in cleaning up UST releases.

Use of green remediation best management practices (BMPs) can help minimize the environmental footprint of cleanup activities at UST-contaminated sites and improve overall outcomes of the corrective actions. In accordance with the EPA Principles for Greener Cleanups, BMPs outlined in the updated “Green Remediation Best Management Practices: Sites with Leaking Underground Storage Tanks” fact sheet are intended to complement federal requirements for corrective actions at UST-contaminated sites and may enhance state-administered UST program requirements.

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

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

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

(Credit: Christina Animashaun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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