EPA Region 6 Releases 2022 Year in Review
DALLAS, TEXAS – (January 25, 2023) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 released the 2022 Year in Review outlining major accomplishments and environmental progress over the past fiscal year.
“The first year of my tenure is complete and I am proud that EPA Region 6 continues to show accomplishments in regulatory action to protect communities and public health,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “Our accomplishments range from increasing our presence in the most impacted communities to developing a new air monitoring system for inspections to issuing Region 6’s first ever RCRA 3008 consent agreement for the Denka facility. I am honored to serve alongside the dedicated staff of Region 6 as we continue the hard work of delivering better protection and improved outcomes for residents in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.”
2022 EPA accomplishments include:
- Dr. Nance traveled extensively in the Region, visiting communities, cleanup sites, and important infrastructure. She met with communities 29 times in FY2022, in-person and virtually, to establish trust and identify next steps.
- Region 6 is following up on the Administrator’s tour, taking on each site in turn, knowing it can take years to resolve each one. You can read about these actions on the Journey to Justice website, but we’d like to highlight two of them in this report.
- In St. John the Baptist Parish, we used our authority to require the Denka Performance Elastomers facility to install fenceline monitors to identify sources of emissions onsite, allowing the EPA and communities to better understand air pollutants in a quick, reliable way. Data is posted regularly to our St. John the Baptist Parish website. We also issued a RCRA 3008 Consent Agreement requiring the Denka facility to improve its handling and disposal of chloroprene, the first ever such order in Region 6.
- At the Union Pacific Railroad Houston Wood Preserving Works site in Houston’s Fifth Ward, we met regularly with the city, the state, non-profit organizations, and community groups to develop a feasible solution for the site. For the first time, we have been at the table with these stakeholders making decisions about sampling and next steps.
- Region 6 managed more than $546 million in funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan. In addition to grants to other states, Region 6 distributed more than $105 million in BIL funding to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Water Resources Board for water infrastructure improvements.
- In Region 6, 47 school districts were selected to receive more than $130 million in BIL rebate funds to purchase approximately 350 electric and low-emission school busses in the Clean School Bus program’s first round of funding.
- Region 6 received Clean School Bus applications from more than 240 school districts. Ninety percent of these applications and all of the selectees came from priority school districts comprised of high-need, rural and tribal school districts.
- Region 6 also embedded environmental justice and/or climate change principles into our decision-making on the Colfax, SPOT, Matagorda, and Corpus Christi projects.
- To help identify EJ impact areas, we created a regional map that revealed more than 11,000 EJ census blocks in R6, which is 44% all Region 6 census blocks. This map is being used to orient staff to the geographic extent of environmental justice problems in Region 6, and as an overlay for further analysis of impacts on EJ communities.
- To improve our relationships with states, Dr. Nance participated in 28 meetings with Region 6 state officials, including monthly one-on-one meetings with the five state environmental heads, three Environmental Council of the States events, delivery of keynote addresses at events attended by state officials, press events with state officials, and collaborations with other agencies on project delivery.
- We also strengthened relationships across the board by hosting a successful National Brownfields Conference in Oklahoma City, and providing access to grants that help maximize economic, environmental and social performance to more than 2,000 attendees from across the country. We added a first-ever environmental justice caucus for community leaders to provide feedback and insights to EPA staff and managers as well as the first all-tribe meet and greet.
- Region 6 strengthened relationships with tribes by participating in multiple formal SAFETEA sessions, National Tribal Operations Committee and Regional Tribal Operations Committee sessions, and formal consultations with tribes. Dr. Nance visited several tribes in person and toured their lands. Region 6 staff participated in many other meetings with tribes.
- EPA is in the process of updating the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) under the Clean Air Act to reflect our increased understanding of risk from ethylene oxide (EtO) and technologies available to reduce this risk. We reached out to affected communities in Region 6 with four public meetings to explain EtO risk to residents in Ardmore, Oklahoma; Athens, Texas; Laredo, Texas; and Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Dr. Nance attended the Laredo meeting to hear community concerns first-hand. Region 6 feedback prompted the Agency to revise the format of the meetings and improve the way ethylene oxide risk was communicated in these public meetings nationwide.
- Region 6 influenced EPA’s national Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage policy. We developed an innovative safe siting methodology for CCUS and a "whole of government" plan to evaluate CCUS impacts on communities. We worked with EPA’s Region 9 and the Department of Energy to deliver virtual CCUS sessions with community groups.
- Region 6 developed a new model for air monitoring called the Pollution Accountability Team, or PAT. The PAT model involves mobile monitoring vehicles traveling in the vicinity of selected facilities, a monitoring airplane flying over the facilities, and certified inspectors with handheld instruments entering the facilities as needed to take verifiable readings.
- In our field tests, the path of the mobile monitoring vehicle was determined in collaboration with local community experts. The resulting data was posted on our website and discussed with the community. In many cases, the data have triggered formal enforcement actions, such as the Notice of Potential Violation and Opportunity to Confer letter to Sasol Chemicals USA, LLC – a facility that uses natural gas and by-products from refinery operations to produce specialty chemicals. The PAT model is now ready for future enforcement at other sites and in other regions.
To read the full report, please visit our webpage.