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Environment: Safeway to pay fine for leaky freezers


Keeping that ice cream frozen has an environmental cost.

Under settlement with EPA, company agrees to cut emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Under a court-ordered settlement, Safeway will pay a $600,000 fine and upgrade equipment and management practices to cut emissions of ozone-depleting refrigerants by 100,000 pounds.

The improvements will come at a cost of $4.1 million, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which detailed the agreement in a Sept. 5 news release. The settlement affects 659 Safeway stores across the country — the largest number of facilities ever under the Clean Air Act’s regulations governing refrigeration equipment. Continue reading

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Pollinator crisis: Will new EPA labeling requirements for pesticides help protect bees?


The pollinator crisis continues, while the EPA takes small steps to address pesticide impacts.

FRISCO — New EPA labeling requirements for  neonicotinoid pesticides will help, but don’t go far enough to protect honey bees, watchdog groups said last week.

The changes come amidst growing concern over a global honey bee die-off that threatens food crops.

The systemic neonicotinoids are absorbed by the whole plant; when bees come into contact with the pollen or nectar, they are exposed to the toxins, which have been shown to supress immune functions. Continue reading

Beekeepers fight EPA’s pesticide approval in court


Honey bees are in trouble, and more pesticides won’t help.

Concern over pollination services and colony collapse drive legal challenge

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Beekeepers around the country are feeling stung by the EPA’s approval of a new pesticide that’s known to be toxic to bees, and are headed to court to try and prove that the EPA didn’t consider all the facts when it gave the go-ahead for Sulfoxaflor.

The new pesticide was developed because some insect pests have developed a resistance to older pesticides, but it’s related to the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, which scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse.

The lawsuit comes as beekeepers across the country struggles for survival. Just in the past few months, Florida beekeepers have reported losing 1,300 hives, with even greater losses in Minnesota (2,312 hives). By some estimates, about 10 million bee hives, valued at about $200 each, have been lost, costing beekeepers a total of $2 billion. Continue reading

EPA moves to clear the air in Four Corners region

Conservation groups seek more fundamental shift to renewable energy


Grand Canyon hikers should be able to breath a little easier and enjoy more expansive views, as the EPA continues to mandate air quality improvements in the Four Corners region.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After years of back and forth over the toxic pollution spewing from the San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners region, The EPA and PNM New Mexico have reached an agreement to address air quality issues by shutting down two of the dirtiest coal-burning units.

Conservation groups say the plan is a step in the right direction, but will scrutinize the deal to make sure it complies with clean air regulations. Replacing coal with natural gas only delays the needed transition away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy future, said Mike Eisenfeld, of San Juan Citizens Alliance.

”Closure of two units at SJGS is in line with the economic realities that coal is in decline as a way to generate electricity,” said Mike Eisenfeld of San Juan Citizens Alliance. “We are greatly concerned over the replacement of coal … with natural gas, when proven renewable energy, specifically solar at the SJGS site, should be the preferred replacement.” Continue reading

Environmental groups challenge EPA’s sulfur-dioxide emission exemptions for Southwest power plants

Fight over regional haze plans now at the federal appeals court level


Conservation groups continue to fight for air pollution cleanup in the Southwest.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Clean Air Act loopholes in regional EPA-approved air quality plans are unacceptable, according to a coalition of environmental and community groups who last renewed their challenge to the regs in a Denver-based federal appeals court.

According to the groups, the plans allow coal-fired power plants in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to escape federal requirements to reduce their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. Of particular concern are exemptions for sulfur dioxide emissions, responsible for obscuring visibility and for significant human health impacts.

The exemptions are being challenged by HEAL Utah, National Parks Conservation Association, Powder River Basin Resource Council, and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading

Environment: EPA hits Wyoming refinery with $378,000 fine

EPA inspection finds multiple violations of environmental regulations

The Sinclair refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sloppy operations, maintenance and record-keeping have cost a Wyoming refinery $378,000 in fines, according to the EPA, which this week announced a Clean Air Act settlement with the Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company.

Along with the fine, Sinclair will update operating procedures, perform required training to workers, improve maintenance of equipment and perform integrity tests on pressure vessels and piping that will reduce the possibility of an accidental release of hazardous chemicals at its refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming.

Hazardous substances of concern used at the Sinclair refinery include large quantities of propane, butane, and flammable hydrocarbon mixtures. Under the Clean Air Act, facilities that utilize hazardous and flammable substances above specified thresholds must develop and submit a risk management plan to assist with emergency preparedness, chemical release prevention, and minimization of releases that occur.

In June 2010, an EPA inspection found that the facility had not adequately implemented those regulations.

“Sinclair has had several accidents and releases of hazardous substances over the past several years that relate to process equipment,” said Mike Gaydosh, director of EPA’s enforcement program in Denver. “This settlement will help ensure the company is operating in accordance with industry standards to protect the environment as well as residents of nearby communities.”

Among other things, the inspection showed that Sinclair failed to replace rusted out pipes and didn’t test and replace pressure relief valves at the facility. The company also was far behind on required inspections and maintenance procedures, according to the EPA.

The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court and is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

More data shows groundwater pollution from fracking

Water sampling in Pavilion, Wyoming, Jan. 2010. Photo courtesy EPA.

USGS sampling in Wyoming appears to support earlier EPA results

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — There’s more evidence suggesting that fracking in Wyoming is polluting groundwater near the town of Pavilion, as U.S. Geological Survey water quality sampling appears to show similar results as an earlier EPA study.

The 2011 EPA sampling was one of the first to document hydrocarbons consistent with fracking fluid chemicals in drinking water wells and monitoring wells located near natural gas wells.

The latest USGS study was conducted specifically to check EPA’s results, even as the the oil and gas industry continue to question the results. Environmental advocates accuse the industry of protecting their economic interests at the expense of public health and safety. Continue reading

Environment: EPA approves Colorado clean air plan

Regional haze reduction efforts should help reduce pollution along Front Range and in Rocky Mountain National Park

A computer-generated split-screen image a split-image simulates the average 20 percent best (left) and 20 percent worst 20 percent (right) visibility at the Long’s Peak vista based on an average of monitored data for years 2000-2004.

Ozone damage on the leaf of a cutleaf coneflower manifests in the form of black stipules. Photo courtesy RMNP.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new EPA-sanctioned clean air plan could be just what the doctor ordered for Rocky Mountain National Park, where rangers had to hoist ozone warnings 17 times this summer, after an average of about five to seven each of the last few years.

Ozone readings also spiked at numerous other locations, especially along the Front Range, and farther out into the eastern plains, where ozone previously hasn’t been a big problem.

Officials blamed the long, hot summer, which cooked the deadly mix of nitrogen oxides and other compounds into a smoggy soup that stresses respiratory systems, clouds visibility and harms plants even in the high alpine zone of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Clean air advocates say that, despite tough state rules, increasing oil and gas drilling along the Front Range are contributing to the increased frequency of ozone spikes, and say that global warming adds to the challenges of controlling ozone smog.

The regional haze plan approved by the EPA this week is a good step in the right direction, according to Environmental Defense Fund attorney Pam Campos, explaining that the plan includes hard targets for reducing emissions by retiring some old coal-burning power plants, converting some to natural gas and making sure other industrial facilities cut emissions. Continue reading

Particulate pollution drives global warming gap

Harvard research pinpoints climate effects of aerosols

Observed change in surface air temperature between 1930 and 1990. Observations are from the NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis. Image courtesy of Eric Leibensperger.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Particulate pollution over industrialized regions can at least temporarily mask the global warming signal by reflecting heat back into the outer layers of the atmosphere, according to Harvard researchers, who say that they’ve pinpointed a “warming hole” over the eastern United States.

“What we’ve shown is that particulate pollution over the eastern United States has delayed the warming that we would expect to see from increasing greenhouse gases,” said lead author Eric Leibensperger, who completed the study as a graduate student in applied physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“For the sake of protecting human health and reducing acid rain, we’ve now cut the emissions that lead to particulate pollution,” he added, “but these cuts have caused the greenhouse warming in this region to ramp up to match the global trend.” Continue reading

House GOP votes to gut Clean Water Act

The Obama administration is proposing more protection for streams and wetlands; the GOP, backed by coal, gas and oil interests, are trying to block new guidance for the EPA and the Corps of Engineers.

Streams and wetlands protection at issue in political battle

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A long-running battle over Clean Water Act policies took another turn this week, as the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to block the Obama administration from implementing new policy guidance that would reinstate protections removed by the Bush administration.

The vote has implications for the Colorado high country, as the new guidelines would offer more protection for headwaters streams and wetlands that aren’t directly connected to navigable waterways.

Conservation groups said the oil and gas industry lobbied their GOP allies in Congress intensively to get the appropriations rider passed.

“They’ve never liked the Clean Water Act,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel with Earthjustice, a conservation and watchdog group that’s been tracking the rule. Continue reading


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