Monthly Archives: January 2009

Quick action by the Obama Administration

In a memo issued by new White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, President Obama tells agency and department heads that :

“…no proposed or final regulation should be sent to the Office of Federal Register for publication unless and until it has been reviewed and approved by a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2009, or in the case of the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense.”

The memo also orders the withdrawal of all final or proposed regulations not yet published by the Federal Register. Department and agency heads have also been asked to “consider extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect”.

This would affect EPA’s proposed exemption of milk containers from the SPCC regulations.

See Washington Post article for more details.


EPA increases its maximum penalties

istock_000002586110xsmallOn Dec 11, 2008, EPA issued its final rule on adjusting its maximum civil penalties for inflation.  For example, under the Clean Water Act, RCRA, Clean Air Act and CERCLA (Superfund law), the maximum statutory penalties are now $37,500 – a substantial increase from the original $25,000.

Spilled milk?

milkDid you know that milk comes under the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) regulations? It is true. SPCC covers all petroleum products and any kind of fat – including animal fat. Since milk contains animal fat, it is regulated under SPCC.

EPA issued a press release today proposing to exempt milk containers from SPCC regulations. For more details, go to EPA’s SPCC web page.

Proper winterization of plant equipment – a message from the US Chemical Safety Board


At a refinery near Dumas, Texas, in February 2007, a water-containing pipe froze and cracked, releasing high-pressure liquid propane; the resulting fire burned three workers and caused more than $50 million in property damage. In January 2001, two workers burned to death at a large Indiana steel mill after they were sprayed with flammable gas condensate, which ignited. The accident occurred after ice had cracked and damaged a valve in the mill’s coke oven gas distribution system. 


The US Chemical Safety Board just issued a video on the need to properly winterize pipes and connections to prevent major chemical accidents.


Managing your environmental data and tracking compliance

filesAs an environmental manager, you face a myriad of time consuming tasks on a daily basis. One of them is the management of environmental data. The other is the tracking of compliance. If you are responsible for several site remediation jobs across the country, how do you make sure that the different tasks associated with these jobs are being carried out in a timely fashion? How do you track the performance of your environmental programs?


For small jobs, many managers use Excel spreadsheets to track deadlines. You can also use Microsoft Outlook to track the different tasks and deadlines. For example, if you are a large quantity generator, you program your Outlook to alert you a month before the March 1, 2010 deadline to prepare your biennial report. If you have quarterly reports that you need to file under your air permit, you set up the deadlines in Outlook or in a spreadsheet.


To track new regulations, by far the best and least expensive way is to subscribe to EPA’s listservers. Many state agencies have similar services too. And they are all free. All you need to do is to subscribe to the service on the agencies’ websites and they will email you alerts on new and pending regulatory developments. There are also commercial services such as Business and Legal Reports that offer regulatory updates for an annual subscription fee.


If you are a Fortune 500 company with limited staff and multiple locations – either domestic or worldwide – a spreadsheet may not be the right tool for you. You might want to consider subscribing to commercial services that track both compliance issues and deadlines for you.


There is a company based in California that provides such service. It is called Locus Technologies. Its website is It has recently rolled out a series of programs (e-Task, ePortal and eSite) designed to help medium and large companies track their environmental performance worldwide. According to Marian Carr, Locus’ Vice President, many of their customers are Fortune 500 companies – including several major energy and defense companies. The costs of such programs are based on the number of users with a subscription fee of between $15 and $25/person per month plus an annual license fee.


Carr maintains that her company is not in the business of keeping track of changing regulatory requirements. It partners with other companies that specialize in that area. What this company does is integrate compliance updates into its tracking program so that its users will stay on top of the deadlines.


Programs like that being offered by Locus are designed to allow company employees from different locations to update their activities online with relative ease. The data base resides on a remote off-site server that is accessible to the customers’ senior managers who want to have a bird’s eye view of their corporate compliance picture.


According to Carr, eTask has a simple intuitive user interface and is easy to learn. She said: “eTask is very simple and I would be shocked if it took more than a one hour webinar to get up to speed on the application”.


After viewing a demonstration of eTask, it is clear that it can be a useful tool for medium to large scale companies with multiple locations. If you are a small company, you may be better off tracking your activities with spreadsheets or Outlook.


The storage and management of environmental data is also becoming a big concern for many companies. Employees may be storing their environmental data on different spreadsheets at multiple locations. That can become a problem when someone in senior management wants to look at the big picture. A similar problem arises when you have different consultants working on different projects for you. Your environmental data are going to be stored in different formats at different locations. There is no guarantee that these formats are compatible with one another. You are at the mercy of your consultants.


You basically have two options. One is to have your consultants send you backup copies of all your data and then you find a way to make them compatible. Another option is to store all your data at one central location under one format. Companies like Locus store their customers’ environmental data at one central location.  


One note of caution: If you are looking for an integrated system, you want to look for systems that have document management tools, site information and permit tracking tools built into it.


Tracking compliance performance will be a higher priority in the coming years. With the Democratic White House and Congress, you can expect a much more focused approach on environmental regulations and compliance enforcement than in the previous eight years.


New Prop 65 chemical proposed in California

California has proposed to add methanol to the list of Prop 65 chemicals. Prop 65 is also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The State of Califonia considers methanol to be a chemical that causes reproductive toxicity – one of the criteria that would require it to be listed as a Prop 65 chemical.

Comments as to whether methanol meets the criteria for listing provided in Title 27, Cal. Code of Regs., section 25306, along with any supporting documentation, should be sent to:

Ms. Cynthia Oshita, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Street Address: 1001 I Street Sacramento, California 95814 Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4010 Sacramento, California 95812-4010 Fax No.: (916) 323-8803; Telephone: (916) 445-6900; E-Mail:

Comments may also be delivered in person or by courier to the above address. In order to be considered, comments must be received at OEHHA by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 2, 2009.

If and when this chemical is added to the list, industry will have one year to comply with the warning requirements udner the state law. 

Prop 65 is one of the topics that are covered in Norman’s 2-day California Environmental Seminar on February 2-3, 2009.