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Federal Facilities

California Floats Novel Cr6 Standard But Cost Fears Drive Weak Limit

California regulators have proposed a first-in-the-nation drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium (Cr6), the widespread toxic metal, but the proposal is expected to be strongly opposed by environmentalists, who are disappointed that cost concerns forced officials to propose a limit significantly weaker than the health goal officials issued in 2011.

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EPA Tightens Cancer Listing, Crafts Novel Dermal Risk Estimate For BaP

EPA's draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), an assessment that EPA will use as a benchmark to determine the relative carcinogenic potential of a host of other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), strengthens the agency's cancer classification for the petrochemical substance and includes a novel dermal cancer risk estimate.

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States Seek FY14 Funding Boost For DOE Nuclear Cleanups

State environmental agencies are urging Congress to boost funding for the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear cleanup budget in fiscal year 2014, warning the cleanup program will face "debilitating problems" if lawmakers continue to cut funding as proposed in pending House and Senate appropriations bills for DOE's FY14 budget.

In an Aug. 6 letter to key lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committee and defense authorization committees, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) urges the lawmakers to enact a total DOE cleanup budget of $5.9 billion -- a level significantly higher than either the House or Senate has proposed for fiscal year 2014 and higher than DOE's FY14 budget request.

The Senate has proposed funding the cleanup program at $5.38 billion for FY14, while the House proposes to fund them at $5.25 billion. ECOS says it is unclear whether sequestration would further reduce those amounts to $4.96 billion for the Senate and $4.83 billion for the House.

DOE has requested approximately $5.53 billion for FY14. "But even at this figure, we worry that DOE would not be able to successfully perform cleanup work to levels necessary for meeting its obligations to state governments on schedule per cleanup agreements," ECOS says.

"We believe that Congress should fully fund DOE's FY2014 budget request, and appropriate above this request to $5.90B (or as close as possible) so these critical cleanup operations can continue uninterrupted, and states can conduct the oversight necessary to ensure the work is performed to standard," says the letter signed by the heads of environmental departments in states with DOE contaminated sites.

The states say they understand that Congress is working to reduce federal spending and there are a lot of different interests competing for increasingly limited funds. But the program has already faced declining budgets in recent years, and the states say this is harming the ability to meet cleanup goals, is causing the forced layoffs of state oversight workers and could lead to more contractor layoffs.

In FY10, Congress appropriated $5.9 billion to fund the cleanup of hazardous and radiological wastes at U.S. nuclear weapons complex sites. This funding enabled DOE to successfully perform most of its cleanup activities on schedule as required by legally-binding state-federal cleanup agreements, ECOS says.

In FY12, Congress reduced DOE's cleanup funding to $5.23 billion, which resulted in missed legally-binding cleanup milestones. Congress slightly increased funding to $5.27 in FY13 under an adjusted continuing resolution, however due to sequestration, the cleanup budget was ultimately funded at $4.85 billion.

"These cuts have resulted in tremendous challenges for the nuclear cleanup and oversight programs," ECOS says. "Hundreds of private cleanup contractors have been laid off; sampling of some contaminated groundwater plumes has had to occur less frequently; and DOE is missing a number of important milestones."

The states say they are very concerned that continuing lower budget appropriations will cause the program "debilitating problems," including the indefinite delay of plans to start pump-and-treat systems to remediate some contaminated groundwater.

Additional cuts could further curtain the frequency of contamination sampling and jeopardize the states' ability to provide quality assurance of DOE cleanup activities, ECOS says.

The states also ask Congress to provide them with notice as soon as possible when there are changes to DOE funding. "We request that more advanced notice be provided to states regarding the possible impacts of any future funding cuts, and we wish for states to be provided ample opportunities for consulting with DOE regarding state cleanup priorities during this era of restricted budgets," ECOS says.

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EPA Faces DOD Push For Weaker Risk Levels As It Begins RDX Analysis

As EPA relaunches its reassessment of the risks of royal demolition explosive (RDX), a widely used munitions' component, the agency is facing pressure from the Defense Department (DOD) to weaken its current toxicity levels after DOD research called for EPA to soften current risk values and a federal health agency incorporated the research into its analysis.

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Industry Split Over Reintroduced Electronics Recycling Export Ban Bill

Electronics recyclers and the broader scrap recycling industry are split over whether to support a recently reintroduced House bill that would bar certain used electronics from being shipped to developing countries, and would increase EPA's authority to regulate electronic waste (e-waste).

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EPA IG Cancels Study Of Delayed Superfund NPL Listings

EPA's Inspector General (IG) has decided to drop a study it initiated earlier this year to uncover why EPA has a backlog of sites proposed to Superfund's National Priorities List (NPL), the list of the worst contaminated sites in the country, but has never moved forward on them or removed them from the proposed list.

In a recent cancellation memo to the agency's enforcement and waste chiefs, the IG says it is canceling the project after conducting preliminary research.

The IG cites two reasons for this decision: first, that EPA has no requirement to finalize proposed sites on the NPL, and second, that a sampling of sites revealed the agency was pursuing alternative cleanup approaches at these sites. "As a result, we have decided to close this assignment."

The IG's Office of Program Evaluation notified the EPA enforcement and waste chiefs April 4 of its plan to launch the study, noting the effort is part of the IG's fiscal year 2013 annual plan.

In a notification to these offices, the IG said its "preliminary research objective is to determine why some Superfund sites that have been proposed for NPL listing have remained in the proposed status for many years without being finalized on the NPL or removed from the proposed NPL list."

EPA could benefit from this evaluation by taking up opportunities to reallocate resources to ensure environmental and human health protection at the highest priority Superfund sites, the April 4 memo said.

 

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EPA Urges Federal Facilities To Replace Most Mercury Thermometers

EPA is pushing federal facilities to replace their mercury-containing non-fever thermometers with less toxic versions and is recommending safe disposal methods for existing ones, despite barriers to a phase-out caused by industry and government standards requiring the use of traditional mercury-based thermometers.

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Boxer Sets Marker For Key Legislative Fixes To Support TSCA Reform Bill

Senate environment panel Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has set four key markers for fixes to a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform bill that she says are vital for the measure to win her support and committee approval, including setting deadlines for EPA regulatory action and protecting existing state chemicals programs.

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California Warns TSCA Reform Bill May Hinder State Environmental Laws

California's top environmental official is warning that the Senate Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform bill may have the unintended consequence of hindering enforcement of state air, water, greenhouse gas (GHG) and other rules, building on prior concerns from the state that the bill may preempt its strict chemicals programs.

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EPA Issues New Data 'Stopping' Rules As Key Step In IRIS Reform Process

EPA has released new “stopping” rules governing when and how new data should be included in Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments of chemicals' toxicity, the agency's latest step in reforming the IRIS process that also includes an updated plan for completing the complex analyses that can take many years to complete.

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