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Federal Facilities

EPA Weighs Group's Push For 'Life Cycle Thinking' In Facility Safety Advice

EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus says he is considering the use of "life-cycle thinking," the informal use of more complex life-cycle analysis principles, in a host of pending decisions, including eco-labeling standards for federal procurement and safety measures for industrial facilities.

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ACC Faults New Jersey's Model IST Rule, Opposing Federal Safety Mandate

The industry coalition American Chemistry Council (ACC) is challenging New Jersey's model chemical facility safety program, arguing in comments to EPA that the state incorrectly labels facilities' routine safety upgrades as shifts to inherently safer technologies (IST) and fails to account for changes that shift risks to other parts of production processes.

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High Court Justices Doubt Broad CERCLA Preemption Of State Tort Limits

Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical that Congress intended to broadly preempt state limits on tort claims filed by plaintiffs who have been exposed to chemicals at waste sites when it enacted the Superfund law.

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NRDC, Law Professors Urge High Court To Back CERCLA's Tort Preemption

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a landmark case on whether Superfund law preempts state limits on toxic tort claims, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a group of environmental law professors are urging the justices to uphold an appellate decision finding the law broadly preempts such limits.

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Environmentalists Sue CEQ To Force Delayed NEPA GHG Guide's Release

Environmentalists are suing the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in a bid to force release of the final version of its long-pending guidance, first proposed in 2010, on how federal agencies should consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change impacts as part of their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews of their actions.

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Key Court Urges Congress To Limit CERCLA's Pre-Enforcement Review Bar

A key federal appeals court is questioning the administration's stance that provisions in the federal Superfund law allow for an open-ended delay in remedial actions and related judicial review of cleanup decisions and is recommending that Congress consider clarifying the law to narrow the prohibition on judicial review.

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D.C. Circuit Doubts PRP's Standing In Suit Over High-Profile NPL Site Listing

A federal appellate court panel is questioning whether a potentially responsible party (PRP) at a high-profile North Carolina site has standing to challenge EPA's 2012 decision to list the site on its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), signaling the court may differentiate the case from a 1996 precedent that found standing for a PRP because the listing would give EPA leverage in enforcing a cleanup.

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EPA Plans Pilots To Expand CompTox Data's Use In Regulatory Programs

Leaders of EPA's computational toxicology program, known as CompTox, are looking for new regulatory programs that may be able to use its data to help prioritize actions and make other decisions, expanding its use in the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) and considering piloting its use possibly in the Superfund program.

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EPA Orders Army To Clean Up Abandoned Munitions

EPA has issued a rare unilateral imminent and substantial endangerment order under federal waste law, asserting its cleanup authority to force the Army to clean up munitions left abandoned by a contractor it had hired to dispose of millions of pounds of munitions.

The agency March 18 issued a unilateral administrative order (UAO) to the Army to clean up 15 million pounds of explosives and propellant abandoned by a cleanup contractor at Camp Minden, LA, property owned by the state. EPA issued the order under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), arguing the Army had contributed to the illegal storage and handling of waste explosives and therefore had created an imminent and substantial endangerment of public health and the environment under the law.

EPA rarely issues such orders under RCRA requiring cleanup of federal facility sites, preferring instead to work through legally enforceable, inter-agency federal facility agreements under Superfund law governing most federal facility sites. But the situation at Camp Minden is unique in that it is not an Army-owned or operated site, but rather is owned by the Louisiana Military Department, which leased property to the Army contractor that stored the munitions and was tasked with disposing of them.

In the past, when EPA issued a RCRA imminent and endangerment order at an Air Force site in Florida to try to compel it to investigate and clean up the site according to EPA protocol, it struggled with enforcing the order because the agency lacks authority under RCRA to assess penalties for any alleged violations.

In the Camp Minden case, the Army in 2010 entered into a contract with Explo Systems Inc. to "demilitarize" M6 artillery charges that were considered excess or obsolete, which involves dismantling the ammunition and explosives and possibly disposing of them. Explo leased space on Camp Minden from the state of Louisiana to store the propellant and perform demilitarization activities.

The Army eventually paid Explo $8 million to demilitarize 1.4 million artillery charges containing M6 propellant. The stabilizers in M6 degrade over time, which can make the propellant unstable and an explosive threat. The Army's contract with Explo included a provision that the Army certify the demilitarization operation had been completed for the charges, but the order says DOD contracting agents relied on Explo's representations regarding this and signed the certificates without independently verifying the statements about demilitarization. And despite claims made by Explo, the company was unable to sell most of the M6 propellant it had demilitarized.

An explosion of a magazine containing more than 124,000 pounds of smokeless powder and a box trailer with more than 42,000 pounds of M6 occurred at Camp Minden in October 2012, triggering state police searches, which found about 10 million pounds of unsecured and improperly and illegally stored M6 propellant, the order says. Despite the explosion, the Army continued its shipments of more charges to Explo until November 2012, it says.

In the order, EPA says it believes the Army "contributed," through its lack of oversight and other actions, to the improper handling, storage and disposal of the M6 propellant at Camp Minden.

"There is an imminent and substantial risk that the M6 propellant (which is stored in proximity to 3 million pounds of other explosives) may auto-ignite, and cause a substantial explosion, "EPA says. "The probability of a substantial explosion is greatly increased if the M6 propellant is left in storage and not addressed within the time specified in this UAO."

The UAO calls on the Army, within 15 days of its effectiveness, to submit to EPA for approval a plan for eliminating the endangerment posted by the M6 propellant stored at the site.

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the order, saying the service had not yet been served with the document. Once received, the Army will review it and respond, he says. EPA March 28 granted the Army an extension until April 15 to further consider whether it will make a request for a conference with EPA's enforcement chief, according to EPA.

Officers at Explo have been indicted for alleged violations of state law related to explosives and the company is in bankruptcy proceedings.

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In Reversal, DOJ Backs Environmentalists' Standing In NEPA Climate Suit

The Obama administration is dropping its opposition to environmentalists' ability to challenge the adequacy of environmental assessments conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on climate change grounds after a federal appellate court ruled last year that plaintiffs have standing to sue over inadequate assessment of an action's greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts even if they are only able to show local harms stemming from other adverse impacts.

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