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Environment: Safeway to pay fine for leaky freezers

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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