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Federal Facilities

DOJ Evaluating Options After Court Backs Retroactive Stormwater Fees

A federal district court has held that a 2011 amendment to the Clean Water Act (CWA) requiring federal facilities to pay local stormwater fees applies retroactively -- handing the Department of Justice (DOJ) a loss in the first ruling on the applicability of the measure which is already forcing DOJ to review its stance in two similar cases.

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DOE Studying New Mercury Sites

The Department of Energy (DOE) has decided to study two new alternative sites for a mandated national mercury storage facility, more than a year after the department had identified a preferred location but failed to follow through and make the selection official.

State regulators last month raised concerns about the delay in establishing the storage facility and urged DOE to seek sufficient funding in fiscal year 2013 for the facility to prevent the release of the toxin into the environment.

The Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 (MEBA), sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), directed DOE to safely manage the long-term storage of excess elemental mercury and to establish a long-term storage facility for mercury generated in the United States by Jan. 1, 2013. DOE issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) in January 2011 that analyzed seven sites and named a site in Andrews, TX, as the department's preferred location for the storage facility.

The department was expected to issue a formal record of decision choosing the site in early 2011, but DOE never finalized the site selection, and in a notice published June 5 in the Federal Register, DOE says it plans to consider two new sites as alternatives.

“Since publication of the Final Mercury Storage EIS, DOE has reconsidered the range of reasonable alternatives evaluated in that EIS,” the notice says. “Accordingly, DOE now proposes to evaluate two additional locations for a long-term mercury storage facility, both near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) [in New Mexico], which DOE operates for disposal of defense transuranic waste.”

One of the sites is within the WIPP boundaries, across the WIPP access road from the WIPP facility, the notice says. The other location is approximately 3.5 miles north of the WIPP facility.

States plan to meet with DOE later this week to discuss the planned study, a state source says.

MEBA requires DOE to establish a mercury storage facility by 2013 that is capable of holding 10,000 metric tons of elemental mercury over a 40-year period. The law says the agency must make a facility available to store used mercury, but producers and users of the substance do not have to use the facility if they have adequate storage elsewhere. There is currently no EPA-approved method of disposal for elemental mercury.

The sources of elemental mercury in the United States include mercury used in the chlorine and caustic soda manufacturing process, such as by the chlor-alkali industry, reclaimed from recycling and waste recovery activities, and generated as a byproduct of the gold mining process. In addition, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration stores approximately 1,200 metric tons of elemental mercury at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

DOE says the supplemental EIS (SEIS) will evaluate the cumulative impacts of constructing and operating a facility for long-term management and storage of elemental mercury with the ongoing and planned operations of WIPP for disposal of defense-related transuranic waste, as well as the potential disposal of greater-than-Class C waste, which includes low-level radioactive waste. The locations to be evaluated in the SEIS would be suitable for an above ground storage facility, DOE says.

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EPA Floats Options For New Health Goal For Perchlorate In Drinking Water

EPA is suggesting a range of potential new drinking water health goals for the ubiquitous rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate, a goal that once selected will inform the landmark enforceable cleanup standard the agency intends to set for the substance, according to an EPA white paper released prior to an upcoming peer review of the agency's assessment.

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EPA Children's Office Seeks Pediatric Experts For Perchlorate Review Panel

EPA's children's health office is seeking to ensure that several pediatric experts are selected for the Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel that will review the agency's proposed health goal for perchlorate, a move that could bolster the agency's approach, which sought to protect children and pregnant women from the chemical's harmful effects.

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States Press DOE To Seek Funding In FY13 For Mercury Storage Facility

State environmental regulators are raising concerns that the Department of Energy (DOE) is lagging on plans to establish a statutorily required national mercury storage facility and are urging the department to seek sufficient funding in fiscal year 2013 for the facility to prevent the release of the toxin into the environment.

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House Backs DOD Cleanup Indemnity Measure Over White House Objection

The House has approved legislation as part of its annual defense authorization legislation that would indemnify redevelopers of former military bases closed outside the Base Realignment & Closure Act (BRAC) process from liability for remaining contamination -- much as redevelopers of BRAC properties are already protected.

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EPA Poised To Unveil Plan To Promote Sustainability Through Technology

EPA officials are poised to unveil an agency-wide plan to spur innovation in sustainable technology solutions for environmental problems, heeding calls from its advisory panels and outside experts to engage other parts of the government and the private sector in advancing technology solutions to further the agency's goals.

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CRS Says Regulatory Uncertainty Could Hinder 'Nano' Competitiveness

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) says a lack of certainty on rules aimed at ensuring nanotechnology products do not adversely impact environmental health and safety (EHS) could hinder U.S. competitiveness in the emerging sector, which could put pressure on EPA to move several stalled rules on nanomaterials.

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DOD Rejects GAO Advice To Better Address Past Exposures At Bases

The Defense Department (DOD) is dismissing calls from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to better identify and possibly address potential health risks from past toxic exposures at military bases, according to a just-released GAO report, despite concerns that DOD is not adequately responding to past exposures at Camp Lejeune, NC, and other bases.

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Activists Sue Over ‘Quiet’ EPA Extension Of Contested PM NAAQS Guide

Environmentalists are suing EPA for its “quiet” extension of a guidance first issued by the Bush administration in 2007 on how states should implement the agency’s particulate matter (PM) ambient air standards, claiming EPA violated procedural requirements in its extension of a guide that activists are already contesting in a separate suit.

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