Archive for February, 2014

New EPA Regulations Put Much-Needed Safety Measures on Pesticide Use

Photo by Michael D. Heckman. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Michael D. Heckman. Some rights reserved.

Late last week, the EPA released a pre-publication copy of a Federal Register proposed rule increasing safety measures surrounding pesticide use by agricultural workers and farmers. The new standards would impose new restrictions and requirements in an effort to better protect America’s 2-million strong agricultural workforce. Seems like a good time to do so – the last time the standards were updated was 1992, and obviously a lot has changed, agricultural-technology wise and everything-else wise, in the last two decades. As it stands, 12,000 workers are afflicted with acute pesticide poisoning in the U.S. every year, and it’s been suggested that this figure is actually a very conservative estimate, as cases of poisoning go extremely under-reported.

The new protocol as set forth in the EPA’s proposed rule will require a yearly training course on pesticide use and safety for all agricultural workers (the old standards required these only every five years), which seems like a no brainer. They also require farms that use pesticides to construct “buffer zones” around the area where pesticides are used to protect those nearby from drifting toxins, and for No Entry signs to be put up in these areas. So far so good! Perhaps the most significant restriction imposed by the new rules is that agricultural workers must now be 16 years of age or older to work on a farm that uses pesticides (family farms being the exception). Of course, this may also be the hardest component of the rule to implement, without creating some sort of expensive task force to go farm to farm and enforce it.

The rules will now enter a 90-day comment period following their publication in the Federal Register. The EPA hopes to publish the final rule by next year.

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Constitution Pipeline

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

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EIS No. 20140039, Draft EIS, FERC, NY, Constitution Pipeline and Wright Interconnect Projects, Comment Period Ends: 04/07/2014, Contact: Kevin Bowman 202–502–6287. Website.

EIS No. 20140040, Draft Supplement, BLM, AK, Alpine Satellite Development Plan GMT1 Development Project, Comment Period Ends: 04/21/2014, Contact: Bridget Psarianos 907–271–4208. Website.

EIS No. 20140041, Draft EIS (Not yet available online – keep your eyes out for Supplement 51 here.), NRC, MO, Generic—Renewal of Nuclear Plants, Supplement 51, Regarding Callaway Plant, Unit 1, Comment Period Ends: 04/07/2014, Contact: Carmen Fells 301–415–6337. Website or website.

EIS No. 20140042, Final EIS, BIA, MT, Proposed Strategies to Benefit Native Species by Reducing the Abundance of Lake Trout in Flathead Lake, Review Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Barry Hansen 406–883–2888. Website.

EIS No. 20140043, Draft EIS (Not yet available online, check back here for updates.), AFS, UT, Energy Gateway South Transmission Project, Comment Period Ends: 05/22/2014, Contact: Kenton Call 435–865–3730. Website.

EIS No. 20140044, Draft EIS, USACE, WA, Skokomish River Ecosystem Restoration, Comment Period Ends: 04/14/2014, Contact: Nancy C. Gleason 206–764–6577. Website.

EIS No. 20140045, Draft EIS, BLM, WY, Energy Gateway South Transmission Project and Land-use Plan Amendments, Comment Period Ends:  05/22/2014, Contact: Tamara Gertsch 307–775–6115. Website.

Amended Notices

EIS No. 20130001, Draft EIS, BIA, CA, WITHDRAWN—Shu’Luuk Wind Project, Campo Indian Reservation,  Lease Approval, San Diego County, CA, Comment Period Ends: 02/25/2013, Contact: Lenore Lamb 951–276–6625 ext. 254. Revision to FR Notice Published 01/11/2013; Officially Withdrawn by preparing agency.

EIS No. 20130340, Draft EIS, USFS, AZ, PROGRAMMATIC—Revision of the Coronado National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, Comment Period Ends: 03/06/2014, Contact: Yolynda Begay 520–388–8370. Revision to FR Notice Published 11/22/2013; Extending Comment Period from 02/20/2014 to 03/06/2014. Website.

EIS No. 20130365, Draft EIS, NMFS, CA, Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Comment Period Ends: 06/13/2014, Contact: Ryan Wulff 916–930–3733. Revision to the FR Notice Published 12/13/2013; Extending Comment Period from 4/14/2014 to 06/13/2014. Website and website.

Pondering the Future of the Salton Sea

Photo by Geographer. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Geographer. Some rights reserved.

The Salton Sea – one of California’s least dazzling but most important geographical features. Spanning 350 square miles across the Imperial and Coachella Valleys in Southern California’s Colorado Desert, the Salton Sea is the largest lake in the state. It also provides a habitat for over 400 species of migrating birds flying along the Pacific Flyway, which runs down through Mexico. For these birds, the Salton Sea is a crucial oasis, but it is also of great importance to humans – the Salton Sea warms winds that blow down from the north, causing a unique microclimate at the south end of the lake that is ideal for agriculture, and its in this area that 80 percent of the U.S.’s winter crops are grown.

The Salton Sea was created in 1905, in a particularly rain-and-snow heavy year. Flooding of the Colorado River caused a re-routing of the Alamo Canal that in turn forged two new waterways, carrying huge amounts of water into the Salton Sink. In the 1950’s and 60’s, small resort towns with quaint names like Salton City and Desert Shores began to pop up around the lake’s perimeter, drawing the overflow of tourists from Palm Springs. However by the late 1960’s, it became evident that the salinity levels of the Sea were dangerously high, causing a threat to some fish species – the Sea continued to be fed from the Colorado River as well as agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley, but the amount varied year to year and the runoff often carried pesticides. Quickly, Salton Sea was abandoned as a vacation destination and left largely to sit dormant until interest picked up again in the 1990’s under the renewed efforts of Congressman Sonny Bono, who spearheaded efforts to save the Salton Sea when scientists discovered another problem: the Salton Sea was shrinking, and if trends weren’t reversed, it could disappear entirely.

Cut to the present and very recent past, after decades of losing water to the California Drought. In 2003, the Quanification Settlement Agreement was signed by the Department of the Interior, California, and its water-related agencies, agreeing on a method and timeline to slowly scale back the amount of water being siphoned into Salton Sea from the Colorado River, leaving more water for San Diego and its surrounding cities. A looming deadline of 2018 has been set, at which California’s Imperial Irrigation District must stop sending “mitigation” water to the lake. California is currently entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River a year, about thirty percent of the total volume. Of the 4.4 million, 2.6 million acre-feet are being used in the Imperial Valley alone, and the state as a whole regularly overdraws on its allotment, leaving neighboring states Arizona and Nevada with a smaller portion.

But the Salton Sea is so crucial as both a natural habitat and a vital component of the region’s agricultural productivity that efforts to preserve the Sea, at least in some sort of realistic, piecemeal fashion, are already underway. Pipelines are being shored up to prevent as much runoff in the transportation of water, and naturalists are researching which areas of the lake are most vital to migrating birds. It’s now up to California farmers, who are being asked to invest in more efficient water-saving technology that will result in less waste water, to make their contribution. But is the government in California doing enough to help this region’s farmers in making the transition, and can the conservation goals be met by the mandatory 2018 deadline? National Geographic looks more closely at the farmers in this area, fallowing programs, and the agricultural implications of a drier Salton Sea.

Does Your Environmental Impact Statement Raise Environmental Objections from the EPA?

Photo by Benson Kua. Some rights reserved.

Note: this is an updated version of a post from a few years ago. There was no Notice of Availability posted this week, so we thought we’d take the time to refresh our collective memories on the EPA’s comment process. Enjoy!

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Many Knowledge Mosaic subscribers are probably intimately familiar with SEC Comment Letters, in which SEC staff review and comment on selected EDGAR filings. But did you know there’s a similar review process for environmental impact statements filed with the EPA?

The EPA reviews and rates draft EISs in two main ways: the environmental impact of the action (LO-lack of objections, EC-environmental concerns, EO-environmental objections, or EU-environmentally unsatisfactory), and the adequacy of the draft EIS (1-adequate, 2-insufficient information, or 3-inadequate). More details about the two rating systems are laid out here.

According to the EPA’s manual on Policy and Procedures for the Review of Federal Actions Impacting the Environment, the EPA has the specific authority and responsibility under Section 309 of the Clean Air Act (42 USC 7609) to review and comment on Federal actions affecting the quality of the environment, and make those comments available to the public. When a draft EIS is rated EO, EU, or 3, consultation must be initiated with the lead agency, which continues at “increasing levels of management,” as appropriate, until “EPA’s concerns are resolved or further negotiations are pointless.”

Each week, the Green Mien hunts down recently released environmental impact statements for you. And each week, we remind you that you can find available EPA comments on EISs here. However, as the EPA has 45 days to provide comments on a draft EIS (and 30 days to comment on a final EIS), you are unlikely to find EPA comments on these fresh-off-the-grill EISs.

But don’t give up. Check back here for EPA comments issued within the last 60 days.

For instance, the EPA recently released a comment on the Draft EIS for the Disposal and Reuse of the Former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. The EIS received a rating of “EC2” – there were “environmental concerns” regarding the proposal, and the information in the DEIS was deemed, overall, to be “insufficient” for evaluating the environmental impacts. Specifically, the EPA has concerns with “impacts to human health and the environment due to on-site contamination and on-going remedial activities as well as environmental justice, transportation, and cumulative impacts.”

While Knowledge Mosaic hasn’t yet made these comments available and easily searchable on our Laws, Rules, and Agency Materials page, the idea has been on our radar for a long time. If we add them, Green Mien readers will be the first to know.

Sicilian Farmers Take Over Mob Land

Photo by gnuckx. Some rights reserved.

Photo by gnuckx. Some rights reserved.

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a mobster in real life; in fact I think it would be safe to assume I haven’t. Still, I’ve seen enough about the mafia in film and television to know you wouldn’t want to make them angry by, say, stealing their stuff. Yet in a way, that’s exactly what Sicilian agricultural group Libera Terra are doing. Well, they’re not stealing, exactly – instead, they’re using land in Sicily formerly owned by the mafia (since seized by the government) as shared farming space to grow grains, fruits, olives, etc.

The story of Libera Terra (which I have to credit Modern Farmer for turning me on to) begins in 2001, when the Cooperativa Placido Rizzotto (one of the branches of Libera Terra – each is named after a slain mob victim from the region) began operations. Those involved say it was slow goings at first – many in the area feared retaliation from the Cosa Nostra for what could be interpreted as disrespect for former mafia property. However, over the following years, with little violence to point to as evidence and with the assistance of a police presence protecting the farmland, local farmers began to change their attitude.

Now, there are over 200 people involved in the Libera Terra network’s eight different coops, producing a total of over 70 products (wines, oils, jams, and other artisinal goods) sold internationally for a gross annual income of over 6 million Euros (or $8.2 million). Those are impressive figures for any coop, let alone one built from the ashes of a criminal empire!

Reminder – Anecdotes Are Not Data

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

Much of the eastern United States has been smothered in snow this week. Not one, but two massive storms dumped up to eight inches of freeze from Kansas through New England. Along with the storm clouds has come the usual carping and snide commentary – how can there be global warming when it’s so cold and fluffy outside? Never mind the averages, I’m in a parka and gloves shoveling my sidewalk so, ipso facto, global warming doesn’t exist. Take that, pointy-headed scientists! Besides, Al Gore wears earth tone sweaters. This kind of junior high school taunting follows cold snaps as predictably as blue skies follow rain. The media then dutifully report the snark and remind us that scientists say any particular weather incident can’t be linked directly to global warming. 

So the whoppers that blanketed the eastern seaboard are two anecdotes about the climate. California’s record heat and drought are also  anecdotes. Here’s another from the great frozen north: temperatures in Alaska have soared this winter. Record warmth has been recorded across the state, a condition a national weather service spokesman describes as “spectacular.” Ski resorts have shut down and sledding races have been postponed or cancelled. Even the famed Iditarod is being altered because the lack of snow and ice makes its traditional route too dangerous. Plants are putting out green shoots. In January. In Alaska.

But those are just anecdotes. Don’t draw any conclusions from them. After all, it’s really cold in Boston.

Last Week in Environmental Impact Statements: Keystone XL Project – Final SEIS Now Available

While Federal agencies are required to prepare Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with 40 CFR Part 1502, and to file the EISs with the EPA as specified in 40 CFR 1506.9, the EPA doesn’t yet provide a central repository for filing and viewing EISs electronically. Instead, each week they prepare a digest of the preceding week’s filed EISs, which is published every Friday in the Federal Register under the title, “Notice of Availability” (NOA).

We’ve done the dirty work for you. Below, we’ve located and linked to the EISs referenced in last week’s NOA. Please note that some of these documents can be very large, and may take a while to load.

You can read any available EPA comments on these EISs here.

Starting October 1, 2012, EPA no longer accepts paper copies or CDs of EISs for filing purposes. All submissions on or after October 1, 2012 must be made through e-NEPA. Electronic submission does not change requirements for distribution of EISs for public review and comment. To begin using e-NEPA, you must first register with EPA’s electronic reporting site. An EPA source says that as EISs begin to come in electronically, they will appear alongside EPA comments here.

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EIS No. 20140025, Final EIS, USACE, FL, Lake Worth Inlet, Palm Beach Harbor Project, Review Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: Angela Dunn 904–232–2108. Website.

EIS No. 20140026, Draft EIS, USAF, NH, Second Main Operating Base KC–46A Beddown Alternative Air National Guard Installations, Comment Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Kevin Marek 240–612–8855. Website.

EIS No. 20140027, Draft EIS, USFS, MT, Buckhorn Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Sarah Canepa 406–295–4693. Website.

EIS No. 20140028, Draft EIS, DOS, DC, Foreign Missions Center at the Former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Comment Period Ends: 03/31/2014, Contact: Geoffrey Hunt 202–351–9077. Website.

EIS No. 20140029, Draft EIS, BLM, CA, Modified Blythe Solar Power Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Frank McMenimen 760–833–7150. Website.

EIS No. 20140030, Final EIS, FHWA, CA, Ferguson Slide Permanent Restoration Project, Review Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: Scott Smith 559–445–6172. Website.

EIS No. 20140031, Final Supplement (Vol. 1, Vol. 2), USFS, ID, Salmon-Challis National Forest Travel Planning and OHV Route Designation Project, Review Period Ends: 03/31/2014, Contact: Karen Gallogly 208–756–5103. Website.

EIS No. 20140032, Final Supplement, DOS, 00, Keystone XL Project, Review Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: Mary D. Hassell 202–736–7428. Website.

EIS No. 20140033, Second Draft Supplement, USACE, WA, Grays Harbor Navigation Improvement Project, Comment Period Ends: 03/24/2014, Contact: Josh Jackson 206–764–6583. Website.

EIS No. 20140034, Final EIS, NRC, SD, Dewey-Burdock Project, Supplement to the In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities, Review Period Ends: 03/10/2014, Contact: Haimanot Yilma 301–415–8029. Website.

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