Sunday, October 28, 2007

Millennium Inorganic Chemicals dumped PCB's

Millennium Inorganic Chemicals in Ashtabula, Ohio has been ordered to address newly discovered PCB contamination in Fields Brook, which flows into northeast Ohio's Ashtabula River, and eventually Lake Erie.

Fields Brook is on the Superfund National Priorities List. During 1999 - 2001, cleanup activities were conducted on almost four miles of the brook and at six nearby industrial sites. The new contamination, a pool of heat transfer fluid containing PCBs, was discovered in September. The Fields Brook channel has been rerouted around the problem area. A Detroit-based EPA Superfund emergency response team will monitor the work of Millennium's contractors.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic chemicals that were widely used as coolants, insulators and lubricants. PCBs are carcinogens and they concentrate in the food chain. Congress banned the manufacture of new PCBs in 1976.

BP Fined $60Million for Clean Air Violations

BP Products North America, Inc. has agreed to pay a total criminal fine of more than $60 million for violations of federal environmental regulations in Texas and Alaska. In addition to the penalty, the company will spend approximately $400 million on safety upgrades and improvements to prevent future chemical releases and spills.

This is the largest criminal fine ever assessed against a corporation for Clean Air Act violations and the first criminal prosecution of the requirement that refineries and chemical plants take steps to prevent accidental releases. The requirement was passed in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act following the explosion at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India where thousands were killed and injured.

BP will pay $50 million for a catastrophic explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others at its Texas City refinery. BP will also pay a $12 million fine for spilling 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Alaskan tundra and onto a frozen lake in March 2006, resulting in the largest spill that ever occurred on the North Slope.

In addition to the $50 million fine, the company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act and will serve three years of probation for the Texas City incident. BP is also required to complete a facility-wide study of its safety valves and renovate its flare system to prevent excess emissions at an estimated cost of $265 million.

For the Alaska spill, BP pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor of the Clean Water Act and will serve three years probation, pay $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support research and activities on the North Slope, and pay $4 million in restitution to the State of Alaska. BP is required to replace 16 miles of pipeline at an estimated cost of $150 million.

On March 23, 2005, an explosion occurred at the Texas City refinery when hydrocarbon vapor and liquid released from a stack and ignited during the process of increasing octane levels in unleaded gasoline. Investigators learned that operators regularly failed to follow written standard operating procedures for ensuring mechanical integrity of safety equipment. The stack where the release occurred had been in poor operating condition since at least April 2003. Alarms failed to function or were ignored.

The Texas City refinery is BP's largest U.S. refinery, which covers more than 1,200 acres and can process as much as 460,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The refinery was previously owned by Amoco, which merged with BP in December 1998.

In March 2006, BP spilled more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil on the North Slope in Alaska. A second spill occurred in August 2006, but was quickly contained after leaking approximately 1,000 gallons of oil. Investigators determined the leak was caused by a build up of sediment in the pipe, and that BP failed to properly inspect or clean the pipeline, which is required by law to prevent pipeline corrosion. The investigation revealed that in 2004, the company became aware of increased corrosion in the pipeline.

Conference: Making A Great Lake Superior

The Making A Great Lake Superior conference will be held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Oct. 29 -31. The conference will bring together for the first time researchers, government officials, educators and the public to present and exchange information on the critical issues facing the Lake Superior ecosystem with an emphasis on climate change.

Sessions will include the impact of climate change on the lake, invasive species, low water levels, contaminated areas around the lake, toxic pollutants and new pollution concerns. More than 300 people from throughout the Lake Superior basin are expected to attend.

Speakers will include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson, EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade, Arctic explorer Will Steger, former EPA Assistant Administrator Tracy Mehan and John Austin of the Brookings Institution, as well as other experts on Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. In addition, Lake Superior mayors and tribal leaders will participate in a panel discussion about critical issues facing the lake.

The conference agenda is available at

The meeting will also be available on the Internet as a Web cast and by telephone. A live Web cast can be accessed at To listen by telephone, dial 877-446-8439 toll-free and give the operator the ID code. ID codes for each day are available on the conference Web site.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One Bear's Thoughts on Sustainable Economics

You dont' know me from Adam, but - if you don't mind - I'm going to give you an assignment.

If you've taken the time to stop and read this blog, I'm certain that you realize the importance of shifting the manufacturing industry in Michigan toward a more sustainable future. We cannot survive - neither as a community, a state, or a species - if we continue business as usual.

Working in a manufacturing environment, I've become painfully aware of the jobs losses that are occurring around me. It hurts to watch them go. This cannot continue, families are in trouble throughout this state. I am convinced that the "green" economy is the solution to this problem, we have every indication that it will lead to innovation and job creation.

I am also strongly convinced that as business people we must fight not only for environmental protection and justice for individuals, but also merge these two values to create a viable, sustainable economic future for Michigan families. The right to clean water, clean air and a good paying job must be had by all.

For decades, Michigan has been a manufacturing powerhouse. It is time to cast off the negativity that surrounds our economic forecasts and boldly forge ahead into the green economy. To reach this end, we need elected officials to pursue this line of thinking as well. As business folk, we must drive legislation that will benefit green business.

First, we must immediately strengthen net-metering laws in Michigan. Net metering allows individuals and companies to generate their own electricity and sell it to their utility company through the existing grid. Stronger net-metering legislation will encourage economic growth through manufacturing, construction and installation of solar and wind generators. This is no longer in dispute. Anyone who tells you that coal or nuclear is cheaper than solar and wind is an outright liar or is working in public relations for a coal company. Michigan can lead the nation in wind generation because of the enormous amount of wind energy generated by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. We can create jobs immediately by forming business coalitions to invest in wind power development. Guess what, there is currently legislation pending in committee to strengthen net metering laws.

Second, stronger toxics legislation is immediately necessary. No company or individual has the right to threaten the health of the Great Lakes by being allowed to dump toxins directly into them. BP and US Steel are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic dumping in these parts. Fortunately we have philanthropists in West Michigan that have provided a new children's cancer hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Isn't that wonderful!? Yes it is, but it also makes me want to puke to know that so many kids in my community are dying of cancer that we need a major medical facility to deal with the enormous numbers. Cancer is big business in Grand Rapids. The health of our children is a direct reflection of past business practices in West Michigan. We have only ourselves to blame for this.

Third, taxes. There simply must be greater incentives for businesses to pursue green goals. But hear me out, I'm not considering tax breaks for business, I'm postulating a Pollution Tax. For every gram of mercury released, for every cubic meter of carbon dioxide emitted, for every liter of water poisoned, business should pay. We could stop deadly cancers in a generation if we tax the crap out of the guys who are releasing the poisons into the air and water. We can protect the fresh water supply of this entire continent by levying a tax on those who threaten it, right here in Michgan.

There's your assignment. Get it on it. I want to see results by the end of next week.

Thank you for your time.


The Bear

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More EPA objections to Indiana's permit for US Steel Gary Works

In a letter sent October 16th, 2007 to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, EPA outlined three more objections to the draft wastewater discharge permit the state of Indiana has proposed for US Steel Gary Works. EPA had raised initial objections to the permit in a letter sent earlier this month.

EPA's three additional objections involve compliance schedules, Indiana's anti-degradation requirements and cooling water intake structures.

First, the fact sheet for Indiana's draft permit does not show that a one-year compliance schedule is appropriate for installing continuous thermal monitoring equipment or that a three-year schedule is necessary for complying with thermal discharge limits.

Second, while the draft permit includes new discharge limits on several pollutants such as chromium, cadmium, copper, nickel, silver, cyanide, total toxic organics and hexavalent chromium, and total recoverable chromium, it is unclear whether this meets the anti-degradation requirements of Indiana's water quality standards.

Third, the draft permit lacks requirements that reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impacts from the cooling water intake structure.

In an Oct. 1 letter to IDEM, EPA raised objections on how discharge limits were set for several types of pollutants and the inclusion of other compliance schedules in the draft permit. (See Black Bear Post on this issue below)

EPA has raised all its objections during the review period provided by federal regulations. This is part of the federal overview of wastewater discharge permits for major facilities.

Under federal rules, IDEM may not issue the permit over EPA objections.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another killer site

If you haven't already, you need to check out

It turns out that solar is better than coal and nuclear, and over the long term it's a hellofa lot cheaper. Whodathunkit.

Oregon owes Dave and Dan a hearty thank you. They have produced a quality site filled with good bits of info that will keep you entertained for hours (or minutes, your choice). Some days I really wish I still lived out in Eugene where the Earth is NOT flat and not filled with the terminally obese.

Here's to the Oregon crew fighting for energy independence and a solar future for us all. Put down the bong and blog like crazy guys! Keep up the good work!


This incredibly beautiful woman named Rachel sent me some info on a new program by the George Lucas Eductational Foundation.

The Foundation recently launched a "Go Green Database",, on Rachel says it is "the centerpiece of an ambitious new package on the state of environmental awareness in public education."

The database features Green projects, lesson plans, service-learning opportunities and other resources that can be searched by topic, grade level, cost and location. It also allows users to add, rate and comment on or upload their own resources. It will be a permanent feature on

Thanks George. Thanks Rachel.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

US Steel to increase toxic dumping in Lake Michigan

From the Chicago Tribune

Indiana is moving to scrap, relax or omit limits on toxic chemicals and heavy metals dumped into a Lake Michigan tributary by the U.S. Steel Corp. mill in Gary, according to environmental lawyers and former federal regulators who have reviewed a proposed water permit.

Language outlining the changes is buried in 117 densely worded pages under consideration by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which provoked a public outcry this year when it gave a nearby BP refinery permission to significantly increase pollution discharged into the lake.

How much longer do we have to put up with the State of Indiana shirking its responsibility to the Great Lakes and its neighbors? Why do they think they can get away with this bullshit? It's time for action against the State of Indiana, not only by the Feds, but also from all the States surrounding Lake Michigan. Let's sue the pants off of them.

Read the rest of this story in the Tribune.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

EPA vs Dow Chemical

The following is a press release from EPA Region 5

EPA to Dow Chemical: 60 day clock to negotiate on Tittabawassee River system cleanup starts today

CHICAGO (Oct. 10, 2007) - At a meeting today in Chicago, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 formally notified Dow Chemical that it has a limited opportunity to negotiate with the Agency on a settlement to conduct an investigation, a study and interim response actions for dioxin contamination in the Tittabawassee River system. The Midland, Mich., company has until Oct. 17 to decide whether it will negotiate.

The targeted area begins upstream of Dow's Midland Plant and may extend downstream to the Saginaw River, its floodplains and portions of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron.

EPA has the authority to call for negotiations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund. Superfund specifies the process in which a remedial investigation/ feasibility study (RI/FS), cleanup removal actions and remedy design must be conducted.

"The Superfund law provides a strong mechanism to continue necessary actions to comprehensively and definitively address the issue of dioxin contamination in the river system," said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director of EPA's Regional Superfund Division. "The work begun this summer to address three hot spots in the Tittabawassee River is also being performed under Superfund authority."

Dow's expected RI/FS effort must evaluate the nature and extent of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants from the site and assess the risks they present to human health and the environment. It must also provide enough data to develop and evaluate a range of cleanup options.

If the company agrees begin negotiations, Dow will have until Dec. 10 to present EPA with a good faith offer demonstrating its willingness to conduct or finance an RI/FS and design a remedy. EPA may choose to extend negotiations until Jan. 9, 2008, if appropriate.

Top EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials are meeting today in Lansing to discuss their respective roles throughout this process.

Dow's Midland facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant. Dioxins and furans were byproducts from the manufacture of chlorine-based products. Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration at Dow have resulted in on- and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

American Electric Power Corp Gets Hammered by Feds

Record-Breaking $4.6 Billion Clean Air Act Settlement Announced
After Eight-Year Battle, American Electric Power Agrees to Major Power Plant Upgrades, Pollution Reductions, Environmental Improvements

CHICAGO (October 9, 2007) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 8 states, and 12 other environmental organizations, reached a history-making settlement with American Electric Power (AEP) today after a nearly decade-old battle over AEP’s violations of the Clean Air Act’s “New Source Review” requirements.

The $4.6 billion settlement represents the largest of its kind in the history of the Clean Air Act and the most money an energy company has ever agreed to put towards new pollution controls.

AEP also agreed to pay an additional $15 million civil penalty, which is the highest penalty paid by any electric utility in settlement of a New Source Review case, and also fund $60 million in environmental mitigation projects.

"Today’s historic settlement not only holds AEP accountable, but also puts big polluters on notice that they can no longer run and hide from their actions or circumvent the Clean Air Act," said John Walke, director of NRDC’s Clean Air Program. "The size of the settlement means that we will be able to keep 813,000 tons of harmful pollution out of the atmosphere, improving air quality and public health around these plants and beyond."

NRDC filed suit against AEP in 1999 under the Clean Air Act for violations at 16 of its coal-fired electric power plants because AEP facilities had upgraded and increased smog and soot pollution without installing the pollution controls required by law.

As a result of its Clean Air Act violations, AEP emitted illegal amounts of harmful nitrogen oxides and deadly sulfur dioxide pollution at plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia for over two decades.

The Columbus, Ohio-based AEP owns 25 coal-fired electric plants in the United States, and was the number one industrial emitter of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide pollution in the country, based on 2004 data.

Under the settlement, AEP agreed to undertake approximately $4.6 billion worth of pollution control measures at its existing plants over the next decade. The new pollution controls will, reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 79 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 69 percent from the 16 plants covered by the settlement. The sulfur dioxide reduction is among the largest percentage decrease ever achieved in any settlement with coal-fired electric utilities. AEP will also put $60 million towards projects to mitigate the impacts of their past illegal emissions, including the conversion of heavily-polluting trucks and barges to low-sulfur diesel fuel.

"We are happy that AEP has finally agreed to install the modern pollution controls that the Clean Air Act has required for decades," said Shannon Fisk, attorney in NRDC's Midwest office. "This is an important first step toward reducing the disproportionate air pollution burden that is placed on residents of the Ohio River Valley. With today’s settlement, a new day has dawned in the region and cleaner air will soon follow."

NRDC's lawsuit, which also represented the Sierra Club, was one of several suits filed against AEP. Other plaintiffs included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which initiated the battle against AEP, as well as 8 states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Rhode Island, and 12 other environmental groups: Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Clean Air Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, League of Ohio Sportsmen, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Valley Environmental Council, Sierra Club, U.S.PIRG, and West Virginia Environmental Council.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

War Before Kids

It is utterly revolting to know that yesterday the Congress of the United States voted to pay an additional $150 Billion dollars for continuing the war in Iraq, but today only 24 hours later, President Bush vetoed the Children's Health Insurance Program, The Children's Health Insurance Program would have provided health care for millions of poor children in the United States, at a cost of $35 Billion. Bush's reason? Because it would have cost too much.

Our government values war over children.

Not only does our President clearly have his head straight up his own ass, our congress is not listening to the will of the people they represent.

It is my opinion that it is time to remove all of these fools from power. Not next year, not next month, but today. Tomorrow the people of the United States should shut down the federal government.

I am embarrassed to be an American.