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DEC announces three Niagara sites are cleaned up

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced that a cleanup of a city-owned brownfield at 815 River Road in North Tonawanda has been completed.

It was the third such announcement in as many weeks in Niagara County. Just before Christmas, the DEC made similar announcements about sites in Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara.

The River Road property, which covers 0.86 acres, is right across the road from the city wastewater treatment plant. It was formerly used by a company that leased and maintained school buses, and contained several underground fuel tanks.

The city removed 14 such tanks and some surrounding soil in 2003 and 2004, but petroleum contamination remained. In 2007, the city removed another 7,700 tons of contaminated dirt. The city currently piles used asphalt and concrete on the lot, along with unused decorative stone and gravel.

The city hopes to make the land available for commercial redevelopment.

In Niagara Falls, environmental work on the Tract I Highland Avenue site was declared complete last month. The site, located next to Tract II, a state Superfund site, was taken over by the city in a 1990 tax foreclosure.

Tract I, at 3123 Highland Ave., was the location of the old Power City Warehouse, part of a battery-manufacturing operation that went into business around 1910. The last owner, Prestolite Co., shut it down in the mid-1970s.

The warehouse was demolished as part of the remediation. That huge three-story building covered 3.3 acres of the 5.9-acre parcel.

Two spots on the parcel contained what the DEC called “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials.” About 50 cubic yards of that material was removed, along with 11,000 cubic yards of soil, primarily contaminated by lead. Also, four underground storage tanks were taken out in a remediation that was completed Oct. 1.

Brightfield Corp. of Buffalo, owned by Jon Williams, owns both Tract I and Tract II, and plans eventual redevelopment.

In the Town of Niagara, the DEC gave its final stamp of approval to the brownfield cleanup of the site on which the new expansion of Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls was built.

The 47.8-acre site included the 34-acre former Sabre Park mobile home community, which the mall owners, Marcerich Niagara LLC and Fashion Outlets II LLC, took over. Other remediated areas were already owned by the mall owners.

The trailer park site was owned by Union Carbide Corp. from 1949 to 1969. Excavations on the property over the years unearthed chromium, vinyl chloride, chlorinated solvents, mercury and heating oil.

The cleanup involved some excavation, but it was primarily accomplished by paving the site over, with the 225,000-square-foot mall expansion and a 1.72 million square feet of parking lots.

There are stormwater detention ponds totaling 225,000 square feet, and 273,750 square feet of landscaped areas.

DuPont Chemical potentially facing charges and Keystone XL on the ropes again

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One of the most leading chemical companies in the United States, Dupont, is in legal crosshairs for allegedly exposing workers at a Houston area Pesticide plant with dangerous fumes  for numerous years. This comes in the wake of the death of four employees who died on Nov. 15th of last year from exposure to the chemical methyl mercaptan.

Acording to the Washington Post, “Based on state records and the company’s own disclosures, the newspaper concluded that workers could have been exposed to the gas far above the levels deemed acceptable by OHSA since 2008. As much as 600 parts per million of the gas an hour could have filled a poorly ventilated room, but federal guidelines say workers shouldn’t be exposed to more than an average of 10 ppm per day of the gas, which is used to manufacture insecticide and fungicide.”

DuPont, as of now, has declined to comment on the news.

Meanwhile Keystone XL is potential facing a lawsuit from Nebraska farmers. Ranchers in Nebraska whose property lies in the path of the pipeline have come out in a video declaration on Youtube from lawyers representing landowners.

According to the Gaurdian, “The threat of a new lawsuit, delivered in a video ultimatum from the ranchers’ lawyers, is almost certain to extend the saga of the Keystone XL in Nebraska – and in Washington, where open debate was scheduled to begin in the Senate on Monday afternoon ahead of an expected veto threat from Barack Obama.”

Its seems the winds have changed in regards to Keystone since the past few years when it seemed its construction was almost certain, now it’s fighting for a mere chance.

Companies used BPS as a safe alternative to BPA. (David McNew/Getty Images)

BPA alternative disrupts normal brain-cell growth, is tied to hyperactivity, study says

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In a groundbreaking study, researchers have shown why a chemical once thought to be a safe alternative to bisphenol-A, which was abandoned by manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups after a public outcry, might itself be more harmful than BPA.

Companies used BPS as a safe alternative to BPA. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Read more from Amy Ellis Nutt at The Washington Post.

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Poland’s shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests

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“Whenever Chevron organised anything, we demonstrated,” said Barbara Siegienczuk, 54, one of the leaders of the local anti-shale gas protest group Green Zurawlow in south-eastern Poland. “We made banners and placards and put posters up around the village. Only 96 people live in Zurawlow – children and old people included – but we stopped Chevron!”

For 400 days, farmers and their families from Zurawlow and four nearby villages blockaded a proposed Chevron shale drilling site with tractors and agricultural machinery. Eventually, in July, the company abandoned its plans.

Poland’s environment ministry says that shale gas is hugely popular but mobilisations against it were impressive and fuelled by claims that damage had already been done.

“Roads were damaged and destroyed when seismic tests were done with heavy machinery,” said Slawomir Damiluk, 50, a farmer in nearby Rogow. “The fact is that people’s houses had cracks in their walls afterwards. When Chevron tried to start up with their machinery, I was one who was involved. We blocked the entry roads.”

Supported by urban greens, anarchists, squatters and vegans, villagers set up a colourful protest camp – complete with a cinema, online live-streaming, samba bands and installation art – and occupied the site around the clock.

“The women who lived here began learning how to cook without meat because during the protest we had agreed that nobody would go hungry,” Siegienczuk said. “We opened our minds and hearts to people who looked and ate differently, from another culture.”

Dozens of activists are still facing a criminal lawsuit filed by Chevron, and many more were filmed by mystery cameramen whose stills were used in subsequent court cases. Siegienczuk believes that her phone was tapped.

“Once, I heard several people talking on the line and a male voice asked ‘are we going to tap this woman’s phone too?’ I was terrified and passed my phone to other protestors who heard the same voices. After that, my mobile phone turned off,” she said.

Poland,Zurawlow,06.12.2014,  place where people successfully within 400 days fought against drilling by chevron. text

Zurawlow, in south-eastern Poland, where people successfully campaigned against drilling by Chevron. The protest banner reads: ‘Poland has gas, America has profits.’ Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demo

Sally Jones, a spokesperson for Chevron, told the Guardian: “Chevron respects the right of individuals to express their opinions, however it should be done within the law. Chevron remains committed to building constructive and positive relationships with the communities where we operate.”

But local people in the area covered by Chevron’s concession, claim that such relationships went beyond what might be reasonably termed constructive.

Villagers allege that one woman whose water well became polluted at the same time that seismic tests were being conducted in the area received a building renovation paid for by Chevron, and promptly stopped complaining about the issue.

Shortly after that, a local protest leader dropped out of the movement and took up work as a Chevron security guard, leading to accusations that he had been bought off.


Poland, Tomaszow Lubelski,06.12.2014, Mayor of Tomaszow Lubelski during interview with Arthur NeslenPolandTomaszow Lubelski06.12.2014Mayor of Tomaszow LubelskiinterviewCommissioned for FOREIGN NEWS re. shale fracking

Wojciech Zukowski, mayor of Tomaszów Lubelski town, south-east Poland. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

Wojciech Zukowski, the recently re-elected mayor of Tomaszów Lubelski town, in Poland’s southeast, said that he saw no conflict of interest in accepting private or public gifts from multinationals. “I’m not trying to hide that some forms of sponsoring and support takes place here,” he told the Guardian.

“We are open for it,” he said, adding that a town sports club with 250 members would benefit from corporate sponsorship.

Chevron declined to respond to the villagers’ claims but insisted that “we comply with laws and regulations in all counties we do business in.”

The company has donated to several charities in the US and Romania, where it has also invested in shale exploration. In southeast Poland, it has provided charity services to villages at Christmas and offered gifts to residents’ children such as fluffy tigers carrying Chevron logos, and sweets.

“We demonstrate our commitment to the communities where we operate by creating jobs, employing local workforces, and developing and sourcing from local suppliers,” a company statement said.

The Tomaszów Lubelski district has been hard-hit by unemployment and jobs have been a key persuader for the industry.

Close to the exploratory shale drill in nearby Susiec, Jacek, a 40-year-old shop worker said that the shale gas plans “are going to be good as there will be jobs for us and gas will be cheaper. It’s a jobs issue. Possibly my kids might have jobs there.”

The town’s pro-shale mayor ran a campaign on the economic benefits that shale gas could offer the depressed town, hanging a ‘Putinologists – bugger off!’ banner in the town square. But in a regional trend, he was deposed in favour of a more shale-sceptic opponent in November, who advanced an alternative geothermal energy-based plan.

“We don’t need shale gas,” said Maria, a 39-year-old worker in the same store as Jacek. “It’s one big scam. Nobody informed us about what’s happening. The ex-mayor was useless. He just promised work for everyone but there was nothing. We are not going to work on the well. The people who have agro-tourism businesses know that it’s not beneficial as the environment will be destroyed and people won’t come here anymore.”

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Deer run across an icy field in Majdan Sopocki, a village in Tomaszów Lubelski county, south-east Poland. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

On the Natura 2000 site that borders the Susiec well, Narnia-style pine tree forests are frosted in ice and snow. Deers and eagles flit in and out of the fog like phantoms. But at the fence marking the shale well, the deer tracks abruptly stop and double back on themselves.



Fears that one of Poland’s last remaining redoubts of biodversity could be damaged have mobilised local feeling, as polarisation and bitterness have spread across the Tomaszów Lubelski district. Zukowski suggested that village protesters were being manipulated by dark forces.

“It could be said that their actions were inspired by the government of Mr Putin,” he said. “I don’t have such knowledge but [the protests] went hand in hand with the Kremlin’s intentions. Gas and oil are a useful tool for Russia to get involved in other countries’ energy security. It is a proxy to pressure authorities to take certain decisions along the Kremlin’s lines. It is like a political secret. Everyone knows it but no-one wants to name it.”

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A shale gas exploration drilling rig near Majdan Sopocki, owned by the Polish state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG.Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

Jones at Chevron described such claims as speculation. But similar accusationshave been levelled by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of Nato, and by pro-shale officials in Romania and Lithuania, as cold war-style tensions have ratcheted.


Even the patriotic case for pressing ahead with shale gas has been dented by claims from campaigners in Pomerania that toxic waste from shale drills wasdumped in a rural stream.

Environmentalists believe that water tainted by shale salts may have entered the Radunia river used for supplying water to Gdansk, the birthplace of Poland’s Solidarity movement.

Headquarters of the Zurawlow anti-fracking movement.

T-shirts and caps with anti-fracking messages at the headquarters of the Zurawlow anti-fracking movement. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

In November, the French water company, Veolia, was ordered to stop processing shale effluent in a nearby water purification centre because of permitting infractions.

The Polish environment ministry denies that Gdansk’s drinking water was ever put at risk, but such allegations undercut the energy independence case for shale gas, and feed nationalist objections. “The people of Zurawlow might have liked shale gas investment but the issue was these were Americans,” Damiluk said. “We don’t want foreign investors on a land that belongs to us.”

Chevron, the last of the big multinational shale investors is still holding on to its sole concession in Zwierzyniec, which was extended for a year in December. However, the decision’s small print limits future drilling to a small parcel of land the company has already explored.

“If Chevron’s partner PGNiG wins permission to drill in Tomaszów Lubelski, I hope the people there will use the same tactics to block new drills that we did,” Siegienczuk said. “We are open and ready to give any support we can.”

The Zurawlow blockade influenced the UK’s anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in the summer of 2013, and similar battles have flared across Poland since the country became Europe’s front line for shale gas exploration.

A soon-to-be-updated study by the Polish Geological Institute in March 2012 estimated that recoverable shale gas volumes under the country at between 346bn and 768bn cubic metres – the third biggest in Europe and enough to supply the country’s gas needs for between 35 and 65 years.

Bordering volatile Ukraine and heavily reliant on gas from Putin’s Russia, the promise of secure domestically-produced energy made politicians sit up. A year earlier, in September 2011, the country’s then-president Donald Tusk made a bold claim that the shale industry would begin commercial drilling in 2014.

“After years of dependence on our large neighbour (Russia), today we can say that my generation will see the day when we will be independent in the area of natural gas and we will be setting terms,” he said, adding that well conducted exploration, “would not pose a danger to the environment.”

But things haven’t turned out that way. Plans for a shale gas-fuelled economic revival appear to be evaporating as test wells have not performed as expected or have suffered regulatory delays. Foreign investors have pulled out and sustained environmental protests like that in Zurawlow have hampered drilling plans.

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Officials privately talk of the shale experiment as a ‘disaster’.

In September, 3Legs Resources became the latest firm to call a halt on investments after disappointing results. Six weeks before, its chief financial officer, Alex Fraser, had said they were “potentially on the threshold of a very significant result,” involving “potentially hundreds of wells”.

“Companies’ expectations were very high and now we learn that this is a long term process,” said Pawel Mikusek, a spokesman for Poland’s environment ministry. “The experience of the US is that it also took a long time to reach industrial use – 10-15 years – so we need to be more patient. We don’t have such high expectations as two or three years ago.”

But with falling oil prices, continued supplies of cheap coal and EU pressure to increase cost-competitive renewable power generation, the shale gas industry needs positive results fast, and less controversy. 2015 will be a “pivotal” year for the Polish industry, according to industry group Shale Gas Europe.

Multi-billion dollar tax incentives are in the pipeline and a new law should soon speed up permitting processes that can take years. But this has already sparked an EU legal action for allowing firms to drill at depths of up to 5,000m without first assessing environmental risks.

Seven of the 11 multinationals which invested in Poland – including Exxon,Talisman and Marathon – have already pulled out, citing permit delays and disappointing results. Most shale activity is now being led by Poland’s state-controlled PGNiG, and by Orlen and Lotus.

Just 66 wells have been drilled to date – 12 involving horizontal fracking – and permits for a further 27 drills were put on hold in the southeastern Tomaszów Lubelski region last month, pending the outcome of a lengthy inquiry.

Analysts blame regulatory hold-ups for fraying investors nerves, but in Tomaszów Lubelski, which is home to a forest protected under Europe’s gold-standard ‘Natura 2000’ scheme and a proposed Unesco biosphere, environmental protestors claim credit for throwing a pitchfork in the industry’s wheels.

kxl

Senate Advances Bill To Approve Keystone Pipeline Despite Obama’s Veto Threat

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WASHINGTON — The Senate advanced legislation Monday night to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, even though President Barack Obama has already said he would veto it.

The Senate voted 63-32 to clear a procedural hurdle and begin debate on the bill. Ten Democrats and one independent, Angus King (Maine), voted with every Republican to move the bill forward. Those Democrats included Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Mark Warner (Va.). A final vote is expected later this week.

Read more at the Huffington Post.

donnayoung

Utah oil town turns against midwife who asked about infant deaths

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In Utah, an oil boomtown has seen a suspicious number of stillborn infants in the recent past. Midwife Donna Young of the town of Vernal has drawn attention to the rising number of infant deaths, and is now facing criticism from her neighbors. Are the rise in infant deaths attributable to the environmental impacts of drilling?

Find out more from John M. Glionna at the LA Times.

incinerators

Garbage Incinerators Make Comeback, Kindling Both Garbage and Debate

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By Timothy Williams
New York Times
11 January 2015

With landfills shunned, recycling programs stalled and the country’s record-setting trash output unyielding, new waste-to-energy plants are being eyed as a path to salvation. Facilities common in Europe are under consideration in Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, Wisconsin and elsewhere. And in Florida, the nation’s first new commercial garbage incinerator in 20 years is about to be fired up. 

Environmental groups oppose them, saying that although cleaner than the incinerators of the past, waste-to-energy plants still emit mercury, lead, dioxins and a variety of other toxic substances. And the history of incineration offers a cautionary tale, producing alarm among some who live nearby.

Read more at Environmental Health News.

pesticide

EPA report finds pesticide poses risk to workers, spurs calls for ban.

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January 8, 2015

By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News

An insecticide used on corn and other U.S. crops poses health risks to workers who mix and apply it and also can contaminate drinking water, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report released this week.

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Chlorpyrifos is mostly banned for household uses but still used on many crops.

The report is an update, based on new research, to a 2011 assessment of the health impacts of the pesticide chlorpyrifos (pronounced KLOR – pie -ra – phos), which remains one of the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticides. It has been banned for more than a decade for household use but is still used commercially on corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees and some golf courses.

The findings may mean more restrictions to protect worker’s health and drinking water sources as the pesticide undergoes its registration review, a licensing process required of pesticides by the EPA.

Pacific Northwest Agriculture/flickr
Dow AgroSciences is one of the major chlorpyrifos manufacturers.

Industry maintains chlorpyrifos is safe at levels currently in the environment and greatly benefits farmers. But some environmental organizations say that increasing restrictions will not do enough to protect people’s health.

“The science on health impacts – together with many personal stories -overwhelmingly supports the need for a phase out,” said Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network, in a statement. In 2007 the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council urged the EPA to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.

In 2012 the EPA required homes and schools to have buffers to reduce exposure. The EPA estimates about 10 million pounds are applied annually in agriculture across the country.

“We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non-residential sites,” the EPA wrote about the report. “We are also concerned about workers who work around areas that are treated with chlorpyrifos, even if they are not using chlorpyrifos products as part of their jobs.”

“We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non-residential sites.” - US EPAThe agency did not find any additional risks from airborne or food exposure. It cited the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data that found “no concerns for chlorpyrifos in food, with the pesticide detected in less than 1 [percent] of samples.”

However, researchers believe inhalation is likely a major exposure route for people living near heavily treated fields, said Janie Shelton, an epidemiologist who led a study linking chlorpyrifos to autism in babies born to moms near treated fields in farm-heavy Northern California last year.

UC Davis
Epidemiologist Janie Shelton

This bystander exposure is likely a “sub-clinical exposure” – where the mom would not experience any effects herself, but the constant chronic exposure in drift or house dust could impact an unborn child, Shelton said.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that prevents the synapses of the nerves from stopping activity, causing over-stimulation, Shelton said. It has been linked to birth defects, low birth weights and impaired brain development problems, andendocrine disruption.

Fetuses are at much higher risk from the pesticide, she said.

“Adults have an enzyme that can metabolize organophosphates like chlorpyrifos,” Shelton said. “That is something that only comes online after birth. So babies in the womb don’t have the metabolizing enzyme.

“If they’re exposed to a neurotoxin it would take much lower levels to see observable effects.”

The EPA did not return requests to comment on the new report.

Despite household bans, some evidence suggests people are still exposed to the chemicals. A study of Northern California families and floor wipe samples last year found that 99 percent of floor wipes and 65 percent of study participants had some chlorpyrifos in them.

“The science on health impacts – together with many personal stories – overwhelmingly supports the need for a phase out.” -Margaret Reeves, Pesticide Action Network“We know there’s enough of a reason to prohibit residential use because of the neurodevelopmental impairments in children,” Shelton said. “I do see cause for concern [with continued use].”

A spokesperson for Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures chlorpyrifos, noted that the EPA’s announcement is part of a revision, not the final assessment and that “no pest control product has been more thoroughly tested.”

But Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist with Beyond Pesticides, said the mounting evidence suggests chlorpyrifos poses “unacceptable risks to workers and the environment.”

“They [the EPA] should be moving toward getting the chemical off the market, that is the only acceptable way to protect human and environmental health,” she said.

There is a 60-day comment period for the new announcement and the EPA plans to release a report on the chlorpyrifos impact on endangered species later this year.

Follow Brian Bienkowski on Twitter.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.


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Colorado Oil and Gas

Groups sue to force EPA’s hand on oil and gas emissions

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The way environmental groups see it, there’s a gaping hole in what the public knows about toxic chemicals released into communities. A wide range of factories and facilities must report to a key federal inventory, but not the companies that extract oil and gas.

Environmental and open-government groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency two years ago to add the industry to itsToxics Release Inventory, saying the agency’s own estimate suggests those firms emit more hazardous air pollutants than any sector except power plants. The EPA has yet to respond. This morning nine groups sued to press for action.

“The oil and gas extraction industry is somewhat unique in being really almost the last major industry group not to report,” said the suit’s lead attorney, Adam Kron of the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group that presses for enforcement of pollution laws. “We’re not talking about a tiny industry that doesn’t matter.”

The EPA did not comment on the suit. A spokeswoman said the agency hadn’t received it yet.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., doesn’t ask the court to order the EPA to include the extraction industry in the inventory — though that could be the subject of a later suit. For now, the plaintiffs simply want the EPA to act on the 2012 petition, whether yay or nay.

Two trade groups, the American Petroleum Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, did not respond to requests for comment. But the tug-of-war over the Toxics Release Inventory isn’t a new battle. The EPA considered including oil and gas extraction firms in the 1990s and chose not to do so.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Pennsylvania-based industry group, argued in a response to the 2012 petition that the agency’s original decision remains the right one.

Though the industry has grown substantially since the 1990s, the many thousands of wells and related sites dotting rural and urban landscapes don’t individually emit enough chemicals to get above the threshold required for firms to report to the Toxics Release Inventory, the coalition said in a 2012 filing with the EPA.

“While Oil and Gas has undoubtedly evolved over the past fifteen years, the basis of EPA’s determination has not changed,” wrote the coalition’s then-president, Kathryn Z. Klaber.

Last year the Environmental Integrity Project released an analysis suggesting that the larger sites, at least, meet the threshold that a facility use at least 10,000 pounds of any one chemical. The group collected air-emissions data from six major oil and gas states and said nearly 400 sites, including compressor stations and processing facilities, reported releases of at least that amount.

Kron thinks the number of locations meeting the threshold is far higher, given that the states provided information on what was ultimately emitted into the air, not what was used on site.

That information offers a taste of toxic releases, but it’s not the bigger picture offered by the national inventory, which also tracks releases into water and soil. The inventory is free and readily accessible online, whereas state information must be requested and can come with a fee attached, Kron said.

The Toxics Release Inventory, also called the TRI, dates to 1986. Congress launched it after a methyl isocyante gas leak from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands in 1984.

“By making information about industrial management of toxic chemicals available to the public, TRI creates a strong incentive for companies to improve environmental performance,” the EPA says on the inventory’s website.

At first, only manufacturers — including oil refiners — had to report to the inventory. Other sectors were added later.

The new lawsuit’s plaintiffs, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Effective Government, see little difference between the downstream petroleum sites classified as manufacturing and the large ones upstream in the process.

“If you drive by a natural gas processing plant, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell it from a petrochemical plant or an oil refinery, and both of those already report to the TRI,” Kron said.

Groups frequently turn to the courts to make the EPA take action — or undo one.

The agency’s recent rule on coal-ash disposal came after a court order following years of delays. So did its proposal to tighten the ozone standard. The EPA’s Office of General Counsel estimates that about 150 lawsuits involving environmental statutes are filed against the agency each year.

The state of Texas alone has nine cases pending against the EPA. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law group, has sued the EPA “innumerable” times over the decades, said Abigail Dillen, vice president of litigation for climate and energy there.

Citizen lawsuits can play an important watchdog role, holding the EPA accountable for protecting public health, she said.

“EPA is charged with implementing so many fundamental statutes, from the Clean Water Act to the Clean Air Act, … and there are, as you know, political forces that discourage action,” Dillen said. “Lawsuits can be one way to give the agency cover to do what it actually needs to do.”

epa

EPA Proposes Rule to Protect Consumers from Harmful Chemicals Found in Homes and Schools

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Today, EPA is taking action to protect consumers from new uses and imports of the harmful chemicals Toluene Diisocyanates (TDI).

These chemicals are currently widely used in residual amounts in the production of polyurethanes and consumer products, such as coatings, elastomers, adhesives, and sealants and can be found in products used in and around homes or schools. Diisocyanates are well known dermal and inhalation sensitizers in the workplace and can cause asthma, lung damage, and in severe cases, death.

The proposed decision would give EPA the opportunity to evaluate and if necessary, to take action to prohibit or limit the use of the chemicals at greater than 0.1% in coatings, adhesives, elastomers, binders, and sealants in consumer products including imported consumer products that make their way into the United States.  For all other uses in a consumer products, EPA would have the opportunity to evaluate the use of the chemicals at any level.

EPA’s proposed action, a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), would require manufacturers (including importers) to notify EPA at least 90 days before starting or resuming these new uses in consumer products.  EPA would then have the opportunity to evaluate the intended use of the chemicals and, if necessary, take action to prohibit or limit the activity.

Additional information on the proposed SNUR on TDI and related compounds and how to provide comments can be found at:  http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/index.html