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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.

Actions Gain Air, Land, Groundwater Cleanups »

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.
The National Park Service has installed solar panels on the roof of the Alcatraz Island cell block.
The Federal Green Challenge involves 61 partners with 243,000 employees in reducing environmental impacts of their facilities in the Pacific Southwest.

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.

Federal Agencies Reduce Environmental Impact »

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.

More about the Federal Green Challenge

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.

More than 200 Students Submit Creative Works »

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).

More about the Earth Day Art Contest

This work by a second-grade class at San Francisco's Children's Day School was one of five grand prize winners in the Earth Day Art Contest.
EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld presents awards to winners in 2011 Earth Day Art Contest.

EPA Spotlight


Martha Vega

Martha Vega serves as Administrative Officer for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Waste Division. She processes, disburses, and meticulously tracks the division’s entire $24 million budget. This includes grants to states for salaries of hazardous waste inspectors, salaries for her own division’s 80 staff and managers, travel reimbursements, even hiring translators for public meetings in neighborhoods where most residents speak Spanish. “I make sure the funding is there to get the environmental work done,” she says.

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