Annual Progress Report, 2012
Compliance & Stewardship
Enforcement Efforts Span Region
Every year, EPA takes hundreds of enforcement actions against violators of federal environmental laws. Beyond exacting a price for wrongdoing and requiring investment in solutions, these actions serve as a strong incentive for compliance everywhere.
States and some tribes are delegated authority to enforce federal environmental laws, extending EPA’s enforcement reach much further. This means EPA’s enforcement actions are just a fraction of the enforcement picture. Some of 2011’s most significant EPA cases included:
- CalPortland Company, a cement and building materials manufacturer, is paying a $1.425 million penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its cement plant in Mojave (Kern County), Calif. The facility must also spend an estimated $1.3 million on air pollution controls.
- A $1 million settlement with Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman City, Calif., hazardous waste landfill requires the facility to use an outside lab to accurately analyze the waste being deposited in the landfill. The facility had disposed of liquid leachate from the landfill without assuring that it met treatment standards.
- Tronox, a Henderson, Nev., rocket fuel manufacturer, released approximately 40 million pounds of perchlorate into soil and groundwater. Some of it reached Lake Mead, Las Vegas’ main drinking water source. As part of a nationwide bankruptcy settlement, Tronox allocated $81 million for cleanup. Currently, a treatment system removes 1,900 pounds of perchlorate daily from the groundwater.
- Columbus Foods, a food processor in South San Francisco, Calif., will spend about $6 million converting to a safer technology after it leaked poisonous ammonia gas into the air twice in a single year. In the second instance, 17 people were hospitalized. EPA's enforcement action also requires Columbus to pay a penalty of $685,000 and improve its alarm and ammonia release notification procedures.
- Ventura County, Calif., contractor Thomas Staben will pay a $225,000 penalty for dumping 40,000 cubic yards of material into five acres of Calleguas Creek, the main fresh water source for the coastal Mugu Lagoon Estuary. As part of the settlement, Staben will also spend at least $500,000 removing the fill and restoring the creek's natural functions.
Federal Green Challenge Takes Off
The federal government, as the nation’s largest landlord and biggest buyer of goods, services and energy, has huge environmental impacts. EPA’s Federal Green Challenge seeks to reduce those impacts and lead by example.
EPA launched the West Coast Federal Green Challenge in April 2011 with commitments from 34 federal facilities to reduce their environmental impacts by at least 5% annually in at least two of six areas: waste, water, energy, transportation, electronics and purchasing.
Due to the success of the West Coast initiative, the Federal Green Challenge launched nationally in late 2011 and the Pacific Southwest now has 61 partners, employing over 243,000 people.
Participants include the Navy, Forest Service, several national parks, and Postal Service. Participants undertake various projects to reduce their impact, including environmentally preferable purchasing, when agencies buy less or choose “green” products. One participant, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has already phased out the use of polystyrene foam in cafeterias, reduced landfill waste by 26%, reduced paper purchases by 21%, and recycled 100% of old electronic equipment. As a result, the reductions in greenhouse gases from the lab are equivalent to removing 125 cars from the road.
The federal government buys $425 billion of goods and services annually, including 7% of the entire world’s IT purchases. Its real estate portfolio includes 550,000 buildings.
Art Contest Targets Trash in Oceans
Earth Week at EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Office in 2011 included an art exhibit and awards event for 25 student finalists in an art contest.
EPA challenged K-12 students in San Francisco Bay Area schools to use art to communicate the pressing issue of marine debris. More than 200 students submitted highly creative works. Their drawings, paintings, posters and 3D works used various media, including found or recycled materials. Many of the winning artworks used actual debris found on beaches.
“Every work was beautiful and inspiring,” said Bill Glenn of EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, who helped organize the contest. Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld presented awards to all 25 finalists, their teachers, and grand prize winners. Other guests included family members and noted local artists Judith Selby Lang and Eli Noyes.
Ms. Lang used flotsam she picks up every day from Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore to create a marine debris installation at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Noyes created the U.S. Postal Service’s “Go Green” stamps, illustrating 15 ways people can protect the environment in everyday actions.
Marine debris is a global concern, and the students’ art works highlight the environmental problems caused by waste in our oceans. The trash threatens seabirds, turtles and other wildlife, who mistake tiny bits of plastic for food (see the centerfold, p. 12-13, to learn more).