Category Archives: Solid Waste

One Step At A Time Is Just Too Late: The DC Circuit Strikes Down EPA’s Deferral of GHG Regulation of Biomass Emissions

On Friday, in Center For Biological Diversity v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s rule deferring regulation of GHG emissions from “biogenic” sources.  EPA had promulgated the rule, delaying regulation of emissions from biogenic sources from July 20, 2011, to July 21, 2014, on the ground that the carbon cycle is sufficiently complex that EPA is not yet in a position to judge what the actual carbon impact of different biogenic sources might be.  In fact, the record before the Court indicated that EPA believes that some biogenic sources may on net reduce GHG levels… More

Massachusetts Releases Its Revised Solid Waste Master Plan: Are We Really on a Pathway to Zero Waste?

On Tuesday, MassDEP announced release of its updated Solid Waste Master Plan, subtitled “Pathway to Zero Waste.”  The Plan’s most significant discussion relates to the state of the solid waste market and the Plan’s goal for disposal reduction.  The Plan announces a goal of reducing solid waste disposal by 30% from 2008 to 2020, from 6,550,000 tons to 4,550,000 tons.  However, the Plan acknowledges that, even if that ambitious goal is met, there will still be a shortfall of 700,000 tons in solid waste handling capacity in Massachusetts.

This is where the Plan’s controversial modification of the existing… More

Coming to a Steam Electric Generating Plant Near You in May 2014 — New Effluent Limitation Guidelines

Last Friday, EPA announced release of its draft proposal to revise the effluent guidelines and standards for the steam electric power generating industry, last revised in 1982.  The proposal was in conformance with a litigation settlement with environmental groups, which also calls for a final rule by May 22, 2014.

The proposed rule actually sets out four different regulatory options, and they are sufficiently complicated that EPA’s Fact Sheet on the proposal does not even attempt to summarize them.  For that reason, I provide here the Executive Summary of the proposed rule, which does summarize the… More

Stop the Presses: Utility Poles in Place Are Not Point Sources; Neither Are They Solid Waste

As we noted last month, the Supreme Court has determined that logging roads are not point sources subject to stormwater regulation under the Clean Water Act.  On Wednesday, in Ecological Rights Foundation v. Pacific Gas and Electric, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, relying in part on the decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, held that releases of pentachlorophenol and other pesticides from in-place utility poles also do not constitute point source discharges.  As the Court concluded:

Utility poles simply are not “discernible, confined and discrete conveyances” that “channel and control” stormwater.

The Court further… More

MassDEP Begins to Roll Out Its Regulatory Reforms: Good News on the Solid Waste Front

As I’ve previously discussed, MassDEP has been embarked on an effort – prompted by shrinking budgetary resources – to promulgate a package of regulatory reforms.  While the package was announced in March 2012 and updated last October, we only saw the first set of actual proposed regulations last week, when MassDEP announced changes to both its asbestos regulations and its solid waste regulations.  This post will focus on the solid waste package.

On initial review, it’s a good package.  It’s not a panacea, but was never intended as such, and it certainly contains a… More

MassDEP Issues a New Solid Waste Master Plan: A Difficult Road to Achieve Some Ambitious Goals

Late last week, MassDEP announced release of the 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, subtitled “Pathway to Zero Waste.”  James Collins might describe that as a Big Hairy Audacious GoalI have nothing against Big Hairy Audacious Goals, but sometimes they are implemented through Big Hairy Audacious Regulations.  Time will tell if that’s the case here.

The Master Plan goals are to reduce solid waste by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 – not quite zero waste, but more than sufficiently hairy and audacious.  To work… More

MassDEP Issues Final Rules for Anaerobic Digestion Facilities: Let’s Hope They Work

This week, MassDEP announced that it had finalized regulatory revisions intended to encourage anaerobic digestion projects in the Commonwealth. The regulations are the culmination of a long stakeholder process . Since our firm knows from personal experience MassDEP’s ability to tie itself in knots on this issue, there is little doubt that this package was necessary as a practical matter.

Highlights of the regulations include:

An exemption from the site assignment process for anaerobic (and aerobic) digestion operations A general permit for digestion operations receiving no more than 100 tons per day (30 day rolling average) – That’s up from a 60 tpd limit… More

FTC’s New Guidance Has Teeth to Go After Greenwashing

Companies who want to market their products as being good for the environment will need to back up their claims more carefully, in light of the Federal Trade Commission’s new environmental marketing guidelines, released this week. The “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims,” or Green Guides, updated for the first time since 1998, discourage companies from using broad claims like “green,” “eco-friendly”, or “environmentally preferable” that are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. Although the guidelines are not formal rules, they do specify how FTC will enforce US marketing laws.

Instead, environmental claims should be clear,… More

Ban the Bottle or Preserve Our Liberty? Concord Bans the Sale of Certain Plastic Water Bottles

This may not be the most earth-shattering stories reported in this space, but it is a Massachusetts story, and the rhetoric surrounding the issue is sufficiently noteworthy that I thought I would, er, note it. Concord, Massachusetts, has apparently become the first community in the nation to ban the sale of certain plastic water bottles.

According to the Boston Globe, the ban was championed by Concord resident Jean Hill, who was quoted as saying “I hope other towns will follow. I feel bottled water is a waste of money.” Actually agree with Ms. Hill that bottled water is a waste… More

Wondering About the Status of EPA’s CCR Rule? So Are 11 Environmental Groups

I have had a number of clients ask me recently about the status of EPA’s efforts to regulate coal combustion residuals under RCRA. It turns out that some environmental groups have been asking themselves the same question. Being environmental groups, however, they did more than ask about it. They sued.

As most readers know, EPA published two separate proposals for regulating coal ash – one under Subtitle C and one under Subtitle D – on June 21, 2010. Since then, there has been mostly radio silence from EPA, aside from a Notice of Data Availability and request for additional comment last… More

EPA Compromises (Again) on the Boiler Rule: Will It Get Any Credit?

On Friday, EPA proposed certain revisions to its rule on air emissions from boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators (CISWI). As with other major rules under development in the past few years, EPA has taken fairly substantial steps to limit the reach of the rule to those boilers and CISWI that are of greatest concern. Without engaging in formal cost-effectiveness analysis, EPA has sought to make the rule as cost-effective as possible.

As with most of EPA’s big rules, it is too complex to be summarized in a blog post. EPA’s summary fact sheet is here. Very briefly, the rule… More

GHG Protocol Finalizes Scope 3 and Product Life Cycle Methodology

The most popular suite of tools to measure and manage greenhouse gases just got a lot more complete — allowing companies to track the impact of their products from natural resources and raw materials, through manufacturing, use and disposal, and providing a detailed framework to measure companies’ “everything else” Scope 3 emissions.   

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative (a collaboration between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) finalized its two newest global greenhouse gas standards on October 4. The GHG Protocol are the most widely used suite of accounting tools for measuring,… More

The Regulatory Process Works: EPA Promulgates Revised Boiler Rules

As almost everyone knows by now, EPA finally issued its long-awaited final rule on Boilers, Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators (CISWI), and Sewage Sludge Incinerators (SSI) yesterday. The rule is too complicated even to summarize here. EPA has a useful fact sheet for that purpose.

I’d like to focus on a few broader issues. The rule has widely been seen as the Obama administration’s first formal acknowledgment of the anti-regulation political climate currently sweeping Washington. Indeed, the Times began its story as follows:

Responding to a changed political climate and a court-ordered deadline, the Obama administration issued significantly revised new… More

Product Stewardship or Just Cost-Shifting?

Product stewardship is definitely in vogue. The Daily Environment Report has just noted that the United State Conference of Mayors has adopted a resolution calling for “Extended Producer Responsibility For Products.” I understand the arguments in favor of product stewardship. From an economic point of view, the disposal costs associated with products and product packaging can be seen as an externality. Internalizing those costs would give manufacturers and distributors incentives to minimize those costs, through reduced packaging or changes in design/manufacturing that would reduce the costs associated with product disposal.

Nonetheless, I’m skeptical of the USCM resolution and wonder about how “producer… More

Just What We Need: More Community Engagement in Superfund Sites

Last week, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response announced release of its Community Engagement Implementation Plan. Who could be against community engagement? It’s as American as apple pie. It’s environmental justice. It’s community input into decisions that affect the community. It’s transparency and open decision-making.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I’m against it. Study after study shows that, in terms of the actual risks posed by Superfund sites, we devote too many of our environmental protection dollars to Superfund sites, when we should be focusing on air and water. Why do we keep doing this? Because the community demands it. As Peter Sandman has noted,… More

To Be Hazardous or Not to Be Hazardous: EPA Floats Two Options for Regulating Coal Combustion Residuals

Environmentalists have been pushing for years to overturn the Bevill Amendment and get coal combustion residuals (CCR) regulated as a hazardous waste. The failure of an impoundment at the TVA facility in Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008 almost guaranteed that EPA would do something to regulate CCR. Like Hamlet, however, EPA seems to be having trouble making up its mind. Earlier this week, EPA announced two different potential regulatory approaches, one regulating CCR as a hazardous waste under RCRA Subtitle C and one regulating CCR as non-hazardous waste under Subtitle D of RCRA.

More

Still Hope For New Municipal Waste Combustors in Massachusetts?

Yesterday’s New York Times had a very interesting article regarding the use of advanced municipal waste combustor technology in Europe. As the article notes, such plants are relatively commonplace in Europe, whereas literally no new waste-to-energy plants are being built in the United States. Ian Bowles, our own Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs – and someone who has generally been a very successful promoter of renewable energy technology – acknowledged that “Europe has gotten out ahead with this newest technology.” 

This shouldn’t be surprising given that states such as Massachusetts have moratoria on new municipal waste combustors. It’s difficult to… More

Time For Another Rant: Precautionary Principle Edition

As I have previously noted, Cass Sunstein, now head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB under Obama, has called the precautionary principle “deeply incoherent.” Why? Because, as Sunstein notes, “costly precautions inevitably create risks.”

I hope that Sunstein is as troubled as I am by the news, reported recently by Inside EPA, that Mathy Stanislaus, head of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response, has said that implementing the precautionary principle is a key to EPA’s environmental justice efforts.

When Stanislaus says that “we can’t wait until we have all the… More

Dog Bites Man, Monday Edition: Massachusetts Retains Its Municipal Waste Combustor Moratorium

As most of my Massachusetts readers know, on Friday, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles and DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt announced that Massachusetts would retain its moratorium on new construction or expansion of municipal waste combustors. Although the overall outcome is not really a surprise from this administration, a few points are worth noting.

The announcement says nothing about new technologies, such as plasma arc gasification. Arguably, such a technology is not “incineration” or “combustion,” so we’ll have to see whether the administration remains open to such alternatives to traditional incineration.

The administration emphasized that it is committed… More

More News From the Coal Front: Mountaintop Mining Takes One Hit — and May Face Another

This week, the practice of mountaintop removal – chopping the tops off mountains in order extract the coal – received two blows: one from EPA and one from Congress. First, EPA offices Region 3 and Region 4 announced that they plans to assess the Central Appalachia Mining’s Big Branch project in Pike County, Ky., and the Highland Mining Company’s Reylas mine in Logan County, W.Va., before permits are issued for those projects.

Although the broad brush is important here, so are some of the details. First, both letters raise concerns… More

Regulation of Coal Ash: The Ball’s In EPA’s Court For Now

Although it appeared initially as though Congress might be the first to move towards greater regulation of coal ash following the TVA spill, EPA has seized the initiative. Yesterday, Administrator Jackson announced a two-pronged initiative. First, EPA has issued information requests to facilities maintaining coal ash impoundments in order to gather information necessary to support new regulations. Second, she confirmed that EPA will indeed then promulgate regulations designed to prevent future spills.

In response to the Administrator’s announcement, Nick Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee withdrew his own coal ash regulation bill, H.R. 493,… More

Regulatory Fallout from the TVA Coal Ash Release

The magnitude of the recent release of coal ash from the TVA dam is hard to fathom, though the pictures certainly give some sense of its magnitude. Now, as regulators and Congress attempt to get their collective arms around the import of the release, some of the regulatory implications of the release are starting to emerge. According to a report in yesterday’s Greenwire, Congressional hearings this week may include a discussion regarding whether coal ash should continue to be exempt from regulation as… More

Say It Loud, Say It Clear; The Inside of a Building Is NOT the Environment

In a recent decision, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that neither CERCLA nor RCRA provide convenient ways for the buyer of a building containing asbestos to finance the abatement of that asbestos. In Sycamore Industrial Park Associates v. Ericsson, the seller of the building replaced the old heating equipment shortly prior to sale, but left the old system, including piping, in place. The buyer sought to make the seller pay for the asbestos abatement on the ground that the seller has disposed of the old equipment by abandoning it in place when it installed the new system…. More