U.S. EPA recommends testing wastewater for PFAS
Chemical & Engineering News – December 1
Certain facilities may have to test for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their wastewater, under a new strategy announced this Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The guidance, which recommends EPA regulators drafting wastewater (NPDES) permits consider requiring facilities to monitor for PFAS if these chemicals are expected in discharges, affects only facilities governed by discharge permits that the EPA issues under the Clean Water Act. The agency is responsible for wastewater permits in the District of Columbia, Indian Country, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico as well as at some federal facilities. Nonetheless, the new guidance potentially could become a national model for the 47 states authorized to issue wastewater permits within their borders. In addition to wastewater, the memorandum calls on regulators to consider pollutant control measures in municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) and industrial stormwater permits when PFAS are expected to be present in stormwater discharges.
Automakers pledge to work with Biden to reduce emissions
Reuters – December 1
A group representing major automakers, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, on Tuesday issued a statement vowing to work with President-elect Joe Biden on efforts to reduce vehicle emissions even as the industry remains split over whether to let California set its own emission rules. The organization represents most major automakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota Motor, and Ford Motor. The group said it “looks forward to engaging with the incoming Biden administration ... to advance the shared goals of reducing emissions and realizing the benefits of an electric future.” Biden has made boosting electric vehicles (EV) a top priority and pledged to spend billions to add 550,000 EV charging stations. He also supports new tax credits for EV purchases and retrofitting factories for EV production.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moves to weaken migratory bird protections
Reuters – November 27
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last Friday published for public review its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for regulations governing the injuring and killing of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This bolstered the Trump administration’s proposal to reinterpret the 1918 statute by limiting the definition of an illegal “taking” under the law to deliberate actions only, effectively shielding from penalty conduct that inadvertently injures or kills birds. The final EIS will enable the agency to issue a final rule as soon as the end of December.
Controversial Richmond shoreline mixed-use project can move forward, council says
The Mercury News – December 2
A proposal to build a mixed-used project with thousands of homes atop a contaminated waterfront site in Richmond can move forward after the City Council approved the necessary permits, development agreement, and environmental mitigation measures this Tuesday. Formerly home to Zeneca and before that, to the Stauffer Chemical Company, the site was a dumping ground for toxic materials for decades, until Zeneca halted that practice in 1997 and began cleaning up the site in 2000. The City Council last year voted to support a cleanup method approved by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for the site that includes removing some contaminated soil, treating the groundwater, and pouring a concrete cap to create a protective seal. DTSC had declined to require a complete excavation of all toxic substances, which would have taken ten years, finding that it would create more harmful impacts to the community, including air pollution, dangerous traffic and increased dust.
OC water districts file massive lawsuit over PFAS contaminants
The Orange County Register – December 2
Eleven Orange County water agencies filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from DuPont, 3M, and others over PFAS contamination in local groundwater aquifers and forced the closure of more than three dozen wells in Orange County. The lawsuit seeks compensation for costs associated with the contamination, including water treatment plants. PFAS have been linked to health problems, including cancer. Regulators have steadily been lowering the threshold at which the chemicals may have health consequences to ever more miniscule amounts, which has led to growing attention on their presence in Orange County and elsewhere in the state.
State audit calls for upgrade in permit review procedures for hydraulic fracturing projects
Bakersfield Californian – December 1
Following a yearlong audit of California’s review process for certain kinds of oil field projects, the California Department of Finance’s Office of State Audits and Evaluations recommended in a report issued last week standardizing the state’s review of hydraulic fracturing and underground injections projects. Among the most damaging findings, auditors found that the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) improperly approved in 2019 100 injection wells and 300 production wells in a 640-acre expansion of a Kern oil field without requiring an application. The auditors also criticized CalGEM’s practice of approving injection wells without supporting paperwork and found that CalGEM failed to update its permitting procedures to reflect state regulatory changes made last year, leading to disparate review processes in different parts of the state. CalGEM and its parent agency, the state Department of Conservation, said they would work toward improvements along with state and regional water regulators.
Challenges to new California power plants now allowed in Superior Court
San Francisco Chronicle – November 25
Californians can now go to their local Superior Court to challenge the state Energy Commission’s approval of large new power plants that use natural gas or other fuels, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled on November 20, overturning a state law passed in 2001 during an energy crisis. The law required opponents of thermal power plants approved by the commission to file their objections with the state Supreme Court, which, environmental groups say, had not granted review of any challenges to power plants since 2001. The commission, represented by Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, could seek review in the state Supreme Court.