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NY Environmental Enforcement Update June 2014, #18

By Michael J. Lesser, Environmental Law Section, NYSBA © 2014

Enforcement News

EPA Fines US Department of Energy for Nuke Releases

The DOE paid a $155,000 fine for twice allowing radiation to escape into the air during the cleanup of 1950s-era radioactive waste at Knolls Atomic Power Labs. DOE admitted to eight separate CAA violations of National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) involving the release of various radioactive pollutants formerly generated by the Niskayuna (near Schenectady) facility.

San Juan, PR Faces Huge Fines for Sewage Releases

According to the San Juan Star, the EPA commenced an action against the City for alleged sewage releases into local waterways in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). EPA Region 2, which has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico as well as New York, seeks penalties retroactive to 2013, as the City allegedly ignored prior warnings about these releases. In general, a glance at the stories in the Star indicates that Puerto Rico is in extremely dire economic, as well as environmental, straits.

EPA Proposes Plans to Cut Power Plant Carbon Emissions

Not without controversy, EPA proposed guidelines to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. However, current data indicates that NY will be among the least impacted states because less than 10% of its power generation relies on coal as a carbon emitting fuel.

NY Waterways 15th Worst in Nation! Room for Improvement?

The Environment New York Research & Policy Center finds that industrial dischargers released 5,303,190 lbs. of toxic chemicals into New York's waterways in 2012. This gives the state's waterways the dubious distinction of being the 15th worst in the nation, according to the report entitled "Wasting Our Waterways."

DEC Issues Bogus "Clean Fill" Alert!

The re-emergence of scammers offering so-called "clean" (but really contaminated) fill for construction projects has compelled DEC Region 1 to issue an unusual warning to the public. Counsel with clients on Long Island (and elsewhere) should take heed.

NY Cracks Down of Illegal Ivory Trade

State leaders reached an agreement on a new law to fight the state's illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn trade by imposing tougher penalties and increased limitations on purchases and sales. The enforcement effort against the illegal ivory trade is a priority for both state and federal law enforcement agencies.

DEC Issues Norlite Draft Permit, Public Comment Sought

The DEC announced the start of a public comment period for a draft hazardous waste permit and cleanup proposal for the Norlite, LLC corporation in Cohoes, Albany County. Without much fanfare, DEC continues enforcement and remediation as part of the 6 NYCRR Parts 373,374 permit renewal process for hazardous waste transfer storage and disposal facilities (TSDF).

Invasive Species Compel New Boat Cleaning Enforcement

The DEC issued new regulations that require boaters to remove all visible plant and animal materials from boats, trailers and associated equipment, and to drain boats prior to launching from DEC lands. This regulation is expected to reduce the rate at which invasive species are introduced to state lands.

NYC Issues 2013 Hazardous Materials Annual Report

The New York City "Community Right-to-Know Laws," (Local Laws 26 and 92), Report features the results of approximately 8,900 NYCDEP inspections of facilities that store hazardous materials within the City.

Pesticide Releases Remain DEC Priority on Long Island

The DEC issued "The Long Island Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy" highlighting the continued issue of pesticide releases in Long Island. The final report and executive summary provide a regulatory plan for the protection of both surface waterways and the region's sole source aquifer and drinking water resources.

How Far Can a Site "Look Back" Look Back?

Despite being on the state Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites as a Class 2 (significant threat) site for 31 years, DEC is back at the former Al Tech Specialty Steel property for more environmental investigation. The 68 acre site is near a tributary of the Hudson River in Colonie, Albany County. To liberally paraphrase an old saw, old hazardous waste sites never die, they simply ... fade into another site investigation.

2014 NYS Legislative Update

The less than scintillating end of the 2014 legislative session left a number of Bills passed by the Legislature awaiting signature by the Governor at press time including:

S7878/A10135 - Brownfields Cleanup Program tax eligibility extension and 100 million dollars appropriated to the state superfund;

S6617-B/A6558 - The Community Risk and Resiliency Act would require consideration of the effects of climate change and extreme weather events before issuing state permits and allocating infrastructure funds.

Despite public outcry and sponsors in both houses, Bill No. S7718/A9926, amending the Environmental Conservation Law to compel financial assurance by oil train facilities for spill and accident costs ultimately languished at the end of session. The status and text of all session laws can be found online at the Legislature's law site.

Enforcement People in the News

DEC Water Engineer Recognized

The Department commended water engineer Larry Lepak of the Kirkwood office for being awarded the Public Service Excellence Award by the NYS Academy for Public Administration for outstanding performance by a public servant.

NYCDEP Promotes Two Environmental Policemen

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection promoted Justin Kight to the rank of Captain and environmental police officer Justin Romer to detective specialist. Since 2002, DEP has doubled the size of its Police Division to its current 200 sworn members.

State and Local Enforcement

Roberto Clemente Park Update, More Toxic Sites Discovered (Suffolk Co.)

The Suffolk County District Attorney continues to investigate what has become a multiple contaminated site situation that started with the discovery of 50,000 tons of including asbestos, heavy metals and pesticides that had been used as fill material at this public park. Sampling results confirmed the disposals. The sites are in or near environmental justice communities.

Suffolk Co. Homes Built on Contaminated Fill!

The Suffolk County District Attorney's office continues to investigate the origins of illegally released contaminated soils in an Islandia cul-de-sac. The location was used for the construction of affordable housing for returning veterans. This investigation is an outgrowth of the Roberto Clemente Park toxic fill investigation (see above item).

DEC "spears" Illegal Spear fishermen

A commercial boating captain and his crew pleaded guilty to illegal spearfishing in waters off Valiant Rock in Block Island Sound. The Captain will pay a $15,000 fine and must participate in community service programs.

DEC Seizes Exotic Animals

DEC seized 20 animals from an allegedly unauthorized sanctuary, located in Sinclairville, (Western) New York as part of a joint effort with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The animals included 12 tigers, 3 lions, 3 bears and 2 wolves, which were placed with licensed facilities pending further investigation and possible prosecution.

Federal Enforcement

EPA Illuminates Buffalo's Bad Bulb Management

Under an Agreement with EPA, The City of Buffalo will host nine community recycling events to collect fluorescent light bulbs, electronic waste, and household hazardous waste from city residents. The City will also pay a $21,094 penalty and spend at least $79,000 on the recycling events. The underlying hazardous waste violations involved the unlawful handling and disposal of various waste chemicals and waste fluorescent bulbs which are classified as such due to the mercury content of the bulbs.

U.S. v. Gordon (EDNY)

Defendant was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and 2 years of supervised release, for smuggling elephant ivory into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act and related laws. He will also pay a fine of $7,500 and forfeit $150,000, and approximately one ton of elephant ivory seized by agents from defendant's Philadelphia store.

U.S. v. Hawkins (WDNY)

A Buffalo, N.Y. man was convicted of a misdemeanor for being an accessory after the fact to a false statement in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA). He was sentenced to one year probation. The defendant had been employed as an air sampling technician and a project monitor. During an asbestos abatement process, he and his co-defendants created false project logs to document the progress at the Kensington Towers abatement project. Accurate work logs are required to be maintained under the CAA.

U.S. v. Smith (WDNY)

The owner of a Pennsylvania company pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a fine of $25,000 per day of violation, or both. The defendant released demolition debris into a local river during the demolition of condemned buildings on either side of the river.

U.S. v. Li (District Court of N.J.)

The owner of a Chinese antique business was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison for heading an illegal ivory smuggling conspiracy in which rhino horn and elephant ivory objects worth more than $4.5 million were smuggled from the United States to China. This prosecution is part of the long running "Operation Crash" which has previously led to additional federal convictions under the Lacey Act and other federal laws.

DEC Region 4 Administrative Orders

In the Matter of Selkirk Cogen Partners
Order of Consent
File No. R4-2014-0522-1 20

Respondents were assessed a civil penalty of $7,000.00, for a violation of an air permit condition as per 6 NYCRR 201-6.5(a)(2) by exceeding the NOx (nitric oxide) hourly and pounds per hour limits for a single air emission source. Respondents own and operate a co-generation power facility in Selkirk, New York.

In the Matter of Ruby Lake Glass, LLC
Order of Consent 6/16/14
File No. R4-2014-0507-113

Respondent was assessed a civil penalty of $1,160, for violations of 6 NYCRR 201-1.2 (a) for operating an air pollution control device without a permit; and for the reintroduction of collected air contaminants from the control device to the atmosphere. Respondent uses a cyclone device to collect, recycle and salvage fine particulate glass. This collected glass particulate then goes into a collection bag at the bottom of the cyclone.

In the Matter of the Town of Colonie
Order of Consent

The Town was penalized for exceeding leachate release parameters at the Town landfill in violation of its 6 NYCRR Part 360 solid waste permit. The Town was assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $26,000, with $6,000 of the civil penalty due upon entry of the Order and the balance suspended, and payable for the failure to comply with Order's "Schedule of Compliance." The compliance schedule focuses on leachate control and management.

Weird News

Harley Davidson Goes Electric!

America's famous motorcycle brand goes green with an electric prototype. The image of the "Easy Rider" does not come to mind.

Birds Attack Blondes in British Park!
Was Hitchcock's movie ("The Birds") based on fact?

Former Reality TV Star Attempts Extortion for Negligence at Nuke Facility

A Tennessee man was charged with extortion for threatening to publicize alleged negligent practices at a federal nuclear materials facility. Now that should be a reality TV show.

Even More Smart Car Tipping in San Francisco!

As reported in the April Update, somebody in the City by the Bay has a problem with the tiny eco-friendly "smart cars."

Goats Go Get Invasive Species!

DEC has called out a brigade of ten goats to munch away at the invasive plant species that have populated the Oak Brush Plains State Preserve at Edgewood in Suffolk County. Locals will remember this property as the former Edgewood State Hospital. BAAaaaaah!

Florida News? Am I in the Right Place?

Relax! Recently, I visited Southwest Florida where I spoke with representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and local public interest groups. The impact of man-made nutrient discharges into the Myakka and Peace River basins is a high priority issue among the locals. Florida's environmental agencies are organized differently from New York's. But the following should help if the environment of Southwest Florida of interest:

Florida State Government
Florida Department of Health
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (includes state parks)
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Southwest Florida Water Management District
Florida Water Management Districts (in general)
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 10, 2014 12:07 PM.

The previous post in this blog was NY Environmental Enforcement Update May 2014, Issue #17.

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