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Compliance and Stewardship

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Compliance is about playing by the rules — laws and regulations governing activities that affect human health and the environment. One of EPA’s overriding priorities is to ensure environmental compliance by assisting regulated facilities, supporting state and local monitoring and enforcement activities, and taking direct federal action.

Stewardship is a responsibility we all share to care for our environment — at home, at work, and on the go. Everyone can recycle paper, use energy-efficient appliances, and make marketplace decisions that support a clean environment. Industries and institutions can contribute by conserving energy and resources on a larger scale. EPA has a number of voluntary partnerships that encourage government, industrial, and other facilities to achieve environmental results that go far beyond compliance with regulations.

For example, six facilities in the Pacific Southwest, including Motorola in Chandler, Arizona, and the NASA Ames Research Center in California, completed three-year commitments under EPA’s Performance Track program in 2006. Collectively, they made substantial reductions in their generation of hazardous waste (140 tons), solid waste (64 tons), energy use (7 trillion BTUs), and water use (52 million gallons). They also increased their use of recycled materials by 187 tons. Performance Track now has 55 member facilities in the region.

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Expanding Enforcement Tools
To Increase Environmental Results

Enforcing the nation’s environmental laws is central to EPA’s mission, and the agency has a number of tools at its disposal to ensure compliance.

Effectively communicating enforcement activities to the public and the regulated community both improves awareness of compliance requirements and sends a clear message that failure to comply has consequences.

In cases of serious environmental violations which might involve egregious negligence or conduct involving intentional, willful or knowing disregard for the law, EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division pursues criminal penalties and remediation from violators.

The agency uses civil enforcement tools to return violators to compliance and deter misconduct in others, eliminate or prevent environmental harm, and preserve a level playing field for responsible companies that abide by the laws. In judicial cases, EPA brings suit in federal court to have a judge order a remedy. In administrative cases, the agency issues orders directly to the violator.

In fiscal 2006, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region concluded 295 enforcement cases, garnering over $468 million in funding to clean up and prevent pollution caused by violations. Collection of $7.8 million in penalties helped ensure that polluters gained no advantage over those who invest in compliance.

Using Expedited Settlements to Speed Environmental Outcomes

One of the most efficient ways to address minor violations and obtain environmental benefits is through the use of expedited administrative penalty orders. These tools offer relatively “real time” enforcement where violations are corrected and a penalty is obtained in a short amount of time, generally a few months from EPA’s discovery of the violation.

As Figure 1 shows, EPA has steadily increased its use of these enforcement tools in the Pacific Southwest, increasing the percentage of expedited orders out of all administrative penalty orders from 24% in fiscal 2003 to 45% in fiscal 2006.

Graphic showing the increase in percentage of expedited orders out of all administrative penalty orders

Figure 1. The increase in percentage of expedited orders out of all administrative penalty orders from 24% in fiscal 2003 to 45% in fiscal 2006. Larger View

Reducing Air Pollution Through the National Refinery Initiative

The Pacific Southwest Region played an active role in a national initiative to address the most significant Clean Air Act compliance concerns affecting the petroleum refining industry. Through this initiative, EPA has reached more than a dozen comprehensive agreements with petroleum refiners to significantly reduce harmful air emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, volatile organic compounds, and particulates.

In fiscal 2006, three more settlements became effective, with a combined projected reduction in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions of more than 5,300 and 300 tons per year, respectively, from seven California refineries: ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery; Tesoro’s Martinez refinery; Valero’s Benicia and Wilmington refineries; and ConocoPhillips’ Carson/Wilmington, Rodeo, and Santa Maria refineries.

In addition to these reductions, the Pacific Southwest portion of these settlements include nearly $2 million in penalties and $650,000 in supplemental environmental projects.

Publicizing Enforcement to Improve Compliance

Effectively communicating enforcement activities to the public and the regulated community both improves awareness of compliance requirements and sends a clear message that failure to comply has consequences.

One recent example of the impact of targeted enforcement and outreach involved asbestos violations at charter schools in Arizona. After receiving a tip, EPA determined that five of the larger charter schools in Phoenix had failed to conduct inspections for asbestos-containing building materials and develop asbestos management plans. EPA issued enforcement actions and later publicized settlement of the cases. As a result, EPA was contacted for compliance assistance by other charter schools, consultants hired to do inspections and develop plans for more than 40 schools, and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which posted compliance information on their Web site.

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Conserving Resources, Minimizing Waste

There’s a simple word for the unwise or inefficient use of resources: Waste.

To have a healthy planet and a sustainable economy, we must reduce wasted energy and materials.

Reducing the Waste Stream to a Trickle

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The millions of tons of waste generated per year in the U.S.
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As the pie chart on this page shows, our waste stream is made up of a wide range of materials, from coal combustion ash to toxic wastes to everyday trash. While some sectors, such as municipal solid waste, have become more and more efficiently managed, others have seen less progress.

EPA is partnering with citizens, environmental groups, academia, industry and all levels of government to speed progress in every sector. A number of new initiatives are part of the Resource Conservation Challenge, a national effort to conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently. They are helping reach EPA’s near-term goal of a 35% recycling rate nationwide, while conserving energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with processing raw materials, reducing the need for new landfills and incinerators, and stimulating development of green technologies.

Increasing the nation’s recycling rate just 1% will cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking more than 1.3 million cars off the road — that’s more than all the cars registered in the state of Utah.

Recycle on the Go/Green Venues

Logo of the EPA's 'Recycle on the Go' program

Household recycling has been a success story, but in our fast-moving society, that’s not nearly enough. These programs encourage recycling at concerts, sporting events, shopping centers, parks, hotels, airports, and other locations, by working with partners to encourage people to recycle wherever they go by making it easy and convenient.

An example of an early success is professional football’s Pro Bowl. In January 2007, for the second year in a row, EPA, the National Football League, Boys and Girls Clubs of Hawaii, Honolulu Recovery Systems and Aloha Stadium participated in collecting and recycling thousands of bottles and cans in the parking lot during the event. In addition, Community Energy, a green energy marketer and developer, donated renewable energy credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions from the Pro Bowl and the NFL Pro Bowl Tailgate Party. The NFL also sponsored tree-planting projects at several local schools.

In the hospitality industry, one large Hilton Hotel in San Francisco hosted a four-day EPA conference in 2006 where the agency worked together with attendees toward a goal of Zero Waste. No disposable food service ware was used, recycling and composting bins were placed throughout the event, and the food waste and even the paper towels were collected for composting. In 2007, the hotel put its Zero Waste program into effect all the time, and EPA’s regional office will adopt a new Green Meetings Policy.

Industrial Materials Recycling

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Caltrans will use over 30 different concrete mix designs in the new SF/Oakland Bay Bridge, including mixes containing over 50% fly ash cement replacement. (Photo: John Huseby, courtesy of Caltrans)

Each year, the U.S. generates 123 million tons of coal combustion products, the byproducts from coal-burning power plants. When this coal fly ash is added to concrete as a cement replacement, the naturally cementitious byproduct makes concrete stronger and more durable. This practice reduces greenhouse gas emissions as well; for every ton of fly ash that goes into concrete, one ton of carbon dioxide emissions is avoided.

In November 2006, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office hosted the Byproducts Beneficial Use Summit, attended by 200 people from 35 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. At the event, EPA honored three organizations for their pioneering use of fly ash: The Los Angeles Community College District incorporated high-volume fly ash concrete into designs of 44 new buildings; Caltrans developed high-performance concrete mixes using coal ash and other recycled materials, which are being used in building the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (see photo, opposite); and Dutra Farms is using 45,000 tons of ash annually in floors for cow sheds on dairy farms.

Lifecycle Building Challenge

Another big piece of the waste stream is construction and demolition debris. In 2007, EPA, the American Institute of Architects, the Building Materials Reuse Association and West Coast Green are sponsoring a nationwide competition for students and professionals to spur innovative building and building components designs as well as management practices that anticipate future use — facilitating a building’s eventual disassembly or adaptation (instead of demolition) to minimize waste and maximize materials recovery.

Scaling Back on Energy Use

Reducing our use of energy has become a higher priority than ever as we take steps to address climate change. EPA’s energy conservation programs partner with industry, government and individuals to make reducing energy use a simple proposition. These and other major efforts in the Pacific Southwest have been paying off: Nevada ranks 23rd, Arizona 33rd, Hawaii 47th, and California 50th — best in the nation — in per-capita electricity use.

Change a Light, Change the World

On October 4, 2006, EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office teamed with the Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), the Housing Authority of Maricopa County, and the state Energy Office to kick off the agency’s newest energy-saving initiative, the Change a Light, Change the World campaign. Electric utility APS sent workers to swap out incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent lights at Paradise Homes in Sunrise, Arizona, a complex that provides subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled.

Compact flourescents use up to 75% less energy than standard light bulbs, generate 70% less heat, and last up to 10 times as long. So a single light change can save up to $25 in energy costs, reduce air conditioning costs (because they emit less heat), and require nine fewer trips up a ladder to change a light bulb. The fuel burned to generate the electricity used by a single compact flourescent will emit 450 pounds less carbon dioxide than a regular bulb.

“If every American household changed a single light bulb to a high efficiency light, it would provide enough power to light more than 2.5 million homes — or every home in Arizona,” said EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri at the Arizona event.

EPA’s Energy Star: Conserving Energy Since 1992

Logo for the 'Energy Star' program

The Change a Light campaign is the newest facet of EPA’s Energy Star program, launched by the agency in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce air pollution through increased energy efficiency. With assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to save energy and money while protecting the environment for future generations. More than 7,000 organizations have become Energy Star partners.

Hundreds of electrical appliances now on the market, from washing machines to light fixtures, now carry the Energy Star label, which tells buyers that they’re getting a product that will save them energy and money compared with other models.

Commercial buildings carefully designed to minimize energy use can also be certified with an Energy Star. California now leads the nation with 779 Energy Star buildings, saving their owners and occupants $149 million and preventing emissions of more than 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

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Removing Arsenic from Drinking Water in Fallon, Nevada

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This drinking water treatment plant removes naturally-occurring but toxic arsenic from the water supply in Fallon, Nevada. The city’s water, pumped from wells and treated here, now meets the new national safe drinking water standard for arsenic.

Fallon is a desert community east of Reno, Nevada, best known for its Naval Air Station, home base of top guns like the “Fighting Saints” and the “Desert Outlaws.” But until recently, the small city faced an insidious enemy these warriors were powerless to defeat: toxic dissolved arsenic in its drinking water.

Like many cities in the arid Southwest, Fallon gets its drinking water by pumping groundwater from deep wells. Deep underground, the basalt rock formations that hold Fallon’s water also contain the naturally-occurring, but toxic metal arsenic. In the 1980s, Fallon’s drinking water was found to contain up to 100 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic, twice the federal drinking water standard at the time and the highest level in the nation for a city its size or larger.

Arsenic is a proven carcinogen. Though it has not been proven to cause the form of cancer known as leukemia, many Fallon residents suspected arsenic was at least partially responsible for the geographic cluster of 17 Fallon children stricken by leukemia in 1997-2004. Three died of the disease.

In 2000, EPA ordered Fallon and the Naval Air Station to meet the 50 ppb standard. But that drinking water standard was already being challenged as too lax to protect public health. After years of reviewing scientific studies on the health effects of arsenic, EPA lowered the standard to 10 ppb, effective starting in 2006.

City officials faced a daunting challenge. They had to build a treatment plant that would meet the new standard, but the $17.5 million cost was unaffordable to the city’s 2,500 households. Fortunately, the city received a $6 million grant from Congress that was administered by EPA. The Navy also contributed $6 million, the State of Nevada $4.5 million, and Fallon $1 million. Fallon water customers would also pay the $1.6 million annual cost of operating the plant.

The treatment plant, designed by consultant Shepherd Miller Inc., was designed to treat 4.5 million gallons per day, with a potential for expansion to treat double that amount. The system works by continuously adding dissolved iron to the water, which reacts with the arsenic to form particles that are then filtered out. The resulting iron-arsenic sludge is not hazardous, and is trucked to the city’s trash landfill.

The plant started operating in April 2004, and quickly met the then-standard of 50 ppb arsenic. After that, plant operators carefully adjusted the water’s acidity and iron content to make it even more effective. The plant met the new 10 ppb standard before it took effect in 2006.

Fallon water ratepayers each pay a surcharge of $20.44 per month on their water bills to keep the treatment plant operating. But it’s far cheaper than buying bottled water. And it’s safe, since tap water must be routinely tested for dozens of contaminants and meet strict standards. Fallon’s treatment plant is the largest ever built to remove arsenic. Now, it’s a model for other communities across the nation which fail to meet the new arsenic standard.

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Kaoru Morimoto: Inspecting Hazwaste Facilities

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Kauro Morimoto

When EPA’s Superfund program began in 1981, abandoned hazardous waste dumps were being discovered on a daily basis, and it has taken decades to clean them up. But you rarely hear about such discoveries today, thanks to strict state and federal laws regulating hazardous waste storage, treatment and disposal, and the efforts of state, tribal, and EPA inspectors like Kaoru Morimoto, who ensure compliance.

Morimoto is a UC Davis-trained mechanical engineer who came to EPA from the U.S. Navy Public Works Center in Oakland in 1995. Then, he was part of a team responsible for hazardous waste compliance at the Oakland Naval Supply Center and the Alameda Naval Air Station. As part of the regulated community, he never knew when EPA inspectors would show up to inspect his facilities. Now, he’s the regulator, but he understands what it’s like to be one of the regulated.

Morimoto and his ten colleagues in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Waste Management Division enforcement office are responsible for inspecting facilities that generate, store, transport, or dispose of hazardous waste. Dozens more inspectors work for the region’s states, tribes, territorial and local governments. It’s their job to make surprise inspection visits to hazardous waste facilities all across the region.

EPA inspectors make surprise visits to facilities like this one to track down leaks and other emissions.

EPA inspectors make surprise visits to facilities like this one to track down leaks and other emissions.

Inspections of small facilities like plating shops can be fairly simple, Morimoto says. “Just follow the chemical process from beginning to end, see where the waste is going, and check to see that the records match the process.”

But inspecting large facilities is more challenging. At one large solvent recycling operation Morimoto inspected in Arizona, there were 2,500 valves, flanges, and pumps that the facility was required by law to identify and monitor for leaks and emissions. The required record-keeping can run to thousands of pages. But Morimoto takes the same approach as with small facilities: Follow the chemicals, see where they end up, and check whether the records match the reality.

At the Arizona facility, workers showed him how the solvent distillation process worked, and how the emission control system soaked up toxic solvent vapors. Morimoto scrutinized the schematic diagrams in the device’s operations manual, compared them to the actual piping, and found that the vapors were actually venting into the atmosphere — a serious violation. Not only that, they had made “improvements” to the emissions control system that had rendered it ineffective. And the required records were not being kept — more violations.

It wasn’t easy, but the facility tracked down the flaws in its system, and brought it into compliance. Under the terms of a legal settlement with EPA, the company also paid a $67,000 penalty and spent $100,000 to buy emergency equipment to help the local fire department deal with chemical fires and spills.

“The violations I’ve found as an inspector aren’t always intentional,” Morimoto notes. “They’re usually just a result of ignorance.” Thanks to inspectors like Morimoto, hazardous waste is carefully tracked so it no longer ends up in someone’s drinking water supply or the air we breathe.

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Greening Computers with EPEAT

From e-mail to e-waste, computer equipment is everywhere now, and it’s having major impacts on the environment.

All those computers use huge amounts of energy, and they become obsolete quickly, creating mountains of trash containing toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, as well as valuable materials that could be reused. For three years, a team of three EPA employees worked on a solution to these problems, and in 2006 they rolled out an unparalleled success: The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).

The EPEAT Team included John Katz of EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office in San Francisco, Viccy Salazar of the Pacific Northwest Office in Seattle, and Holly Elwood of EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Building on national and regional dialogues on electronics and the environment, the team set a clear goal: harnessing the power of purchasers to drive greener electronics design.

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EPEAT display on how to make a computer more environmentally friendly

The team knew purchasers wanted to buy greener electronic products but were unsure how to accurately compare their environmental impacts. They knew manufacturers were willing to provide greener products but needed to ensure they would sell. They knew public advocacy organizations wanted strict measures that could be verified and trusted. So they assembled a diverse group of stakeholders from all camps, and came up with a solution: EPEAT, a registry of electronic products that meet stringent environmental performance standards. EPEAT makes it easy for purchasers to select desktop computers, laptops, and monitors based on environmental performance.

Launched in July 2006, EPEAT now lists more than 300 products from thirteen manufacturers. These products save energy and reduce hazardous waste when they’re junked. Meanwhile, government and private purchasers have committed $40 billion to purchasing these greener electronics.

The environmental results are huge: EPEAT-registered products are expected, over the next five years, to prevent the use of 13 million pounds of hazardous materials and 3 million pounds of non-hazardous materials, and save nearly 600,000 megawatt-hours of electricity — enough to supply about 60,000 homes for a year.

Ultimately, the benefits could be many times larger, since EPEAT drives environmental improvements in the design of electronics.

But developing the EPEAT program and making it a success was no simple task. It involved working with the stakeholders to achieve consensus about both the environmental standards for computer equipment, and the process for verifying that the standards are met. The criteria covered eight performance categories:

The team then shepherded these ratings through a standard setting process accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), The next step was to select an organization to run the nascent system. After an innovative competitive process, EPA awarded seed funding to the Green Electronics Council to launch the system. The team worked with them on every aspect of the launch, culminating in July 2006, when the EPEAT Web site went live  Exiting EPA (disclaimer).

Even before the launch, the team successfully recruited eight federal agencies, two states, several cities, and two large health care organizations to use EPEAT in their purchasing decisions.

EPEAT has made pollution prevention a simple and easy choice for purchasers of laptops, monitors and desktop computers.

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Engaging the Public in Environmental Work

As part of its mission to protect public health and the environment, EPA provides a wide range of services and programs that strengthen the ability of both the agency and the American people to take environmental action.

Information: Online and In Person

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EPA’s Environmental Information Center/Library in San Francisco serves both EPA staff and the public.

Information is one of the most powerful tools we have for understanding and acting upon environmental and public health issues. EPA’s Web site provides a vast trove of useful information for consumers, students, businesses, state and local governments, researchers, and everyone in between.

Whether via the Web, phone or in-person visit, EPA’s Environmental Information Center and Library in San Francisco are ready to assist concerned citizens and environmental professionals alike in locating EPA documents, researching environmental issues, and playing a role in environmental decisions. The EIC/Library features an Assistive Technology Center for patrons with disabilities and is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

Report an Environmental Violation

Another way to play a role in EPA’s work is to report environmental violations or emergencies when they are witnessed or suspected. Look for the icons on EPA’s Pacific Southwest Web site, or call (800) 424-8802 if an environmental emergency is in progress.

The Street Where You Live

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Water specialist Everett Pringle helps middle school students test water quality at a local water treatment plant.

While most EPA staff in the Pacific Southwest work out of the regional office in San Francisco, key personnel are based throughout the region. Some work in EPA field and outreach offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Honolulu. Others live and work in high-priority areas such as Arizona, California’s north coast, and the Sierra Nevada, where they can be closer to the issues and the people they work with.

In addition, members of the Superfund program’s Community Involvement Office work across the region with residents of communities dealing with Superfund toxic cleanup sites, acting as advocates for early and meaningful community participation in cleanups.

Wise Investments

In the Pacific Southwest, EPA distributed more than $450 million in financial assistance grants in fiscal 2006 to state and local agencies, educational and research institutions, and other organizations to advance protection of public health and the environment.

From major funding for municipal wastewater facilities to small grants supporting community education efforts, EPA’s grant programs closely monitor the use of federal dollars and the results they achieve.

Read more about available funding in Region 9.

Like EPA itself, states, tribes, and other recipients of agency funding are required to conduct outreach to small, minority, and woman-owned businesses when procuring construction, equipment, services, and supplies. Read more about agency-wide procurement opportunities at EPA’s Office of Acquisition Management site.

The Best and Brightest

EPA’s regional office in San Francisco offers opportunities to work on environmental issues throughout the Pacific Southwest. Current job openings are always listed on the Region 9 Careers page or through the national USAJOBS site.

Over the past few years, EPA’s regional Human Resources Office has increased EPA’s visibility at local colleges and universities by establishing partnerships with faculty, career placement officials, and diversity employment program advisors to raise students’ awareness of the agency’s mission and programs.

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