Agreement will focus on approaches to human health risk assessment ,"The CIIT Centers for Health Research (CIIT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development announced the signing of a formal agreement to work together to develop and apply computational toxicology approaches to human health risk assessment. CIIT's computational know-how will be combined with EPA's experimental expertise in toxicology,
proteonomics and genomics to produce advances in EPA's recently launched computational toxicology program. Under the two-year agreement, scientists from both organizations will share experimental data, computational models, facilities and authorship of any published research that might result. It is hoped the collaboration will result in information that will allow experts to better judge the human health risks associated with environmental exposure to potential toxicants. To learn more about CIIT, visit www.ciit.org.
California refinery settles air case ,"Equilon Enterprises LLC and Shell Oil Products US reached a settlement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The Equilon/Shell Martinez Refinery in the San Francisco Bay area, jointly operated at the time of the alleged air violations by Equilon Enterprises and Shell Oil, agreed to resolve an enforcement action related to three accidental releases of air pollutants from a fluid catalytic cracking unit failure between October and December of 2001. Under the settlement, Equilon and Shell agreed to pay $510,000 in civil penalties. In October, Equilon and Shell Oil pleaded no contest to six misdemeanor violations of state air quality laws between 2000 and 2002. For these violations, the companies agreed to pay a $405,000 criminal penalty and to fund local environmental projects up to $270,000. Shell recently took over the refinery's operation. In a written statement, the company said it had taken steps to correct the problems that caused the 2001 incidents, and noted that the fines resulted from self-reported violations.
Report: EPA collects fewer penalties in 2002 ,"The Rockefeller Family Fund's Environmental Integrity Project released a report showing that the number of penalties EPA recovered from polluters in civil cases declined by approximately half when compared to the previous three years' average. In addition, the report notes a sharp decline in the value of supplemental environmental projects undertaken by companies to settle enforcement actions. Eric Schaeffer, the project's director and former head of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, spearheaded the report. Schaeffer has criticized the Bush administration's enforcement actions, particularly its plans to cut enforcement staff by 146 full-time positions for fiscal year (FY) 2003. According to the report, companies paid $140 million, $85 million and $95 million in FY 1999, FY 2000 and FY 2001, respectively. In contrast, EPA recovered only $51 million in FY 2002. Supplemental projects declined from a three-year average of $111 million between FY 1999 and FY 2001 to approximately $44 million in FY 2002. EPA Spokesman Joe Martyak noted that negotiations and settlements are a cyclical ebb and flow of activity. To effectively compare enforcement activities in the Bush and Clinton administrations, added Martyak, the report should have looked at the first two years of the Clinton administration rather than the last two. The report is available at www.rffund.org/eip/docs/99-02PenaltyDeclineRep.pdf.
EPA details security strategic plan ,"In October, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced the agency's Strategic Plan for Homeland Security (See "RegReport" in the November 2002 issue of Chemical Processing). The plan is intended to support the president's National Strategy for Homeland Security, as well as efforts undertaken by a new Department of Homeland Security. As part of the ongoing effort to support homeland security objectives, Administrator Whitman signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to enhance joint work on biological contaminants in water. She announced the creation of a National Decontamination Team to provide immediate technical decontamination expertise at the scene of a chemical, biological or radiological attack. EPA has the lead responsibility for significant homeland security areas, including protection of U.S. water infrastructure, cleanup of any biological or chemical attacks and response for certain radiological attacks. EPA also announced other steps to address homeland security concerns, including the addition of 75 response staff personnel; the establishment of a new Environmental Response Team West in Las Vegas; and the award of $50 million in grants to the nation's largest drinking water facilities to assess vulnerabilities and make security improvements. To learn more about EPA's efforts or to obtain a copy of the strategic plan, see www.epa.gov/epahome/down loads/epa_homeland_security_strate gic_plan.pdf.