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April 11, 2014

Industry and Consumer Update: Responsible Electronics Recycling

By: Maggie Macdonald — Filed under: Compliance, Emerging Issues, Enforcement, RCRA, Solid Waste — Posted at 3:53 pm

Changes are happening in the electronic equipment recycling field; by next year, these changes will significantly affect recyclers, municipalities, property managers, and even individual homeowners.  These include, most notably, an absolute ban on disposing electronic equipment throughout New York State and national changes to the R2 Responsible Recycling and e-Stewards standards, which affect recyclers nationwide.

Background

The potential environmental impact of improper electronic waste disposal is severe.  Perhaps the most compelling presentation of the need to address this issue came in the 2008 60 Minutes piece called “Electronic Wasteland.”  Since then, electronic waste disposal in many jurisdictions has been regulated to prevent adverse impacts; in New York State, electronics recycling is governed by the 2010 Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act.  On a federal level, the enforcement of hazardous waste exporting requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has helped to ensure that hazardous materials contained in electronic equipment are managed properly.

Disposal Ban

Under New York State’s law, disposing of electronic waste at a solid or hazardous waste facility has been banned in stages.  In April 2011, manufacturers and retailers were banned from disposing of electronic waste. In January 2012, all other entities except for individuals and households were similarly banned.  This ban on disposal extends to individuals and households starting on January 1, 2015.

Responsible Recycling

All companies carrying out electronics recycling must be licensed with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and must file annual reports stating the origin, destination, and weight of material collected, processed and resold.

In addition to complying with state law requirements, many recyclers have chosen to become certified under independent industry standards through accredited auditing agencies.  The standards for electronics recycling are the R2 Responsible Recycling Standard and the E-Stewards Standard.  Working with a recycler that has attained and maintained certification to either of these standards provides additional assurance that the materials being recycled will not end up polluting the environment.

New Requirements for Certified Recyclers

Last year, the R2 Standard went through a round of updates which take effect this year.  All R2 certified recyclers must now obtain either RIOS certification (another independent standard for recyclers) OR obtain both ISO 14001 (environmental management standard) and ISO 18001 (worker health and safety standard).  R2 recyclers must transition to the R2:2013 standard by December 2014.

Similarly, the e-Stewards Standard was revised in the last year, and all recyclers certified under the e-Steward standard must be re-certified under the e-Steward 2.0 Standard starting May 1, 2014. Notable changes in the e-Steward standard include heightened data security requirements and air quality and noise restrictions.

For more information on electronics recycling, contact Michael Bogin or Maggie Macdonald.



January 29, 2014

DEC Proposes Draft General Permit for Bulkhead Repair on Long Island

By: Vicki S. Treanor — Filed under: Clean Water Act, Compliance, Natural Disasters, New York Environmental Law, Wetlands — Posted at 6:12 pm

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) has proposed a draft general permit for bulkhead repairs on parts of the south shore of Long Island.

Where: General Permit No. GP-1-13-001 (the “General Permit”) would be available for use on the south shore of Long Island west of the Robert Moses Causeway to the Queens County border, excluding areas of vegetated tidal wetlands, any ocean shore, the ocean front of Long Beach Island, and all of the Jones Beach State Park and Robert Moses State Park barrier islands.

What:   The General Permit would authorize

  • The removal and replacement of a functional and lawfully existing bulkhead in the same location as an existing bulkhead, up to 18 inches higher in elevation than the existing bulkhead.
  • A limited amount of maintenance dredging associated with replacement of the bulkhead.

The General Permit would obviate the need for individual permits under the following programs:

  • Tidal Wetlands (Environmental Conservation Law (“ECL”) Article 25)
  • Excavation and Fill in Navigable Waters (ECL Article 15, Title 5)
  • Water Quality Certification (Clean Water Act § 401)

Official information about the General Permit is available on DEC’s website, here, here and here.

How:   An applicant must submit to DEC a Request for Authorization Form containing a project location map, project plans, a survey depicting the bulkhead, recent color photographs of the site, and permission for DEC to inspect the property.  The applicant must receive written confirmation of authorization before undertaking any work pursuant to the General Permit.

Why:   According to DEC, the General Permit is a continuation of the emergency general permit for storm repair work issued in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in order to expedite recovery. That permit was originally issued in October 2012 and replaced in July 2013.  The current permit is effective until October 31, 2014.

When:   DEC is accepting written comments on its proposal until January 31, 2014. Comments may be sent to

Stuart Fox
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233
E-mail: depprmt@gw.dec.state.ny.us

SPR will keep abreast of future developments concerning this permit.

For more information about bulkhead permitting and/or Sandy recovery efforts, please contact Michael Bogin or David Yudelson.



November 15, 2013

Highlights from the Division of Environmental Remediation’s Annual Report

The Division of Environmental Remediation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released its 2012-2013 Annual Report, noting key developments of the past State Fiscal Year (April 1, 2012 – March 31, 2013).

As reflected in the Annual Report, DEC’s environmental remediation programs affect many businesses across the state. For example, in the 2012-2013 State Fiscal Year, there were more than 18,000 actions that required intervention by the Division of Environmental Remediation; additionally, DEC had jurisdiction over 109,000 petroleum bulk storage tanks and 4,600 chemical bulk storage tanks.

Key developments discussed in the annual report include the following:

Brownfield Cleanup Program:

The past year saw an uptick in the number of projects approved to enter the state Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). In the past State Fiscal Year, 45 projects were approved, with 29% of these projects located in New York City. In prior reporting cycles since 2007, that number has ranged from 28-34. The increase in approved applications likely reflects the race to qualify for tax credits under the BCP, which are being phased out and will not be available for parties that do not receive their BCP Certificate of Completion by the end of 2015.

State Superfund Program

DEC’s authorization to bond new funds for the State Superfund Program has expired. DEC can use appropriations from prior years and cost recoveries to support the program. DEC received $12.1 million in cost recovery revenue in the past State Fiscal Year.

In the past State Fiscal Year, 13 “Class 2” sites, which are deemed to pose a significant threat to human health and/or the environment and require action, were added to State’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Site Registry. This number represents a decline from prior years; there had been at least 19 new Class 2 listings annually from the 2006-2007 through 2011-2012 State Fiscal Years.

Environmental Restoration Program

Funding for DEC’s Environmental Restoration Program, which reimburses municipalities for brownfield cleanup and redevelopment, has been revived: “Under the Cuomo administration’s New York Works capital infrastructure program, the 2013/2014 New York State Budget included $12 million which DER will use to complete cleanup of projects where funding had previously not been available.” New applicants to the program had not been approved since 2008 due to lack of funding.

Bulk Storage Program:

Revisions to the state’s Petroleum Bulk Storage and Chemical Bulk Storage regulations are under way, pursuant to a two-phase public participation process. In Phase One, initial informal draft revisions reflecting changes in federal law were released for public comment. Phase Two comprises the release of formal drafts and the acceptance of public comments thereon; the formal drafts would account for further changes in state and federal law and are expected to be issued in the 2014-2015 State Fiscal Year.

Liquefied Natural Gas:

DEC has proposed new regulations for the siting, storage and transport of liquefied natural gas in New York State. The agency expects to finalize and promulgate the regulations in the present State Fiscal Year. Public comments on the proposed regulations are being accepted until December 4, 2013.

Radioactive Materials:

Draft revisions to DEC’s regulations on the prevention and control of radioactive material are expected to be released in the present State Fiscal Year. New regulations establishing cleanup criteria for remediation of radioactive contaminated sites are also expected in the present State Fiscal Year.

Vapor Intrusion Initiative:

DEC identified 421 sites to be evaluated for vapor intrusion, where a remedial plan had been approved before vapor intrusion was recognized as a major concern. As of March 2013, 318 of these sites have been evaluated and 108 sites are undergoing such evaluation.

Former Manufactured Gas Plants Initiative:

As of March 2013, DEC has issued or entered into cleanup orders or agreements for 213 of 221 identified former manufactured gas plant facilities.

For more information on the Division of Environmental Remediation’s programs, please contact Michael Lesser.

 

 

 



March 14, 2013

Newslink: New York City Council Passes Two Bills to Aid Sandy Recovery

By: Vicki S. Treanor — Filed under: Compliance, Natural Disasters, New York City Environmental Law, Newslink — Posted at 11:09 am

Crains New York Business reports that two bills related to recovery from Superstorm Sandy were passed unanimously by the New York City Council on March 13, 2013.

One bill creates additional City oversight over the physical elevation of homes, in an effort to prevent home collapse or construction accidents associated with subpar construction work. According to the press release announcing this bill, the legislation requires that:

  • Construction plans clearly state whether a project will involve home elevation work;
  • Contractors give 48 hours’ notice to the Department of Buildings before elevating a home, which will give the Department the opportunity to monitor the work;
  • Home elevation work be done under the supervision of an approved special inspector; and
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs provide education to the public regarding the types of work home improvement contractors can do, and the licenses and permits needed by such contractors to do different kinds of work, including home elevation work.

The other bill  waives fees for various City applications, permits, and inspections associated with the repair or reconstruction of Sandy-damaged property used by small businesses.

For more information about this legislation and other Sandy recovery measures, please contact Michael Bogin or Steven Barshov.



March 3, 2013

Proposed DEC Policy Encourages Self-Policing for Civil Environmental Violations

By: Vicki S. Treanor — Filed under: Compliance, Enforcement, New York Environmental Law — Posted at 2:53 pm

On February 4, 2013, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) issued a draft Commissioner’s Policy setting forth incentives for businesses to police themselves for potential environmental violations.  The draft Environmental Audit Incentive Policy, the first formal proposed change in DEC penalty and compliance policies in at least ten years, signals a willingness on the agency’s part to work with regulated entities to reduce the costs of enforcement for both government and business.  The policy would expand upon, and supersede, an earlier policy which was limited to small businesses, CP-19: Small Business Self-Disclosure Policy.

Highlights of the proposed policy are set forth below:

  • Regulated entities that voluntarily disclose a violation or suspected violation within 30 days from discovery and correct the violation within the 60 days from disclosure will receive a waiver of the gravity component of their penalties if they are otherwise eligible for penalty mitigation, subject to variations in the above time frames as required by law or specified in an agreement with DEC.
  • New owners of regulated entities are given a longer disclosure period of 60 days from discovery.
  • An entity that enters into a comprehensive environmental audit agreement with DEC becomes eligible to apply for a number of state-sponsored financial incentives, including assistance for the cost of compliance.
  • An entity that enters into a comprehensive environmental audit agreement with DEC and implements an environmental management system also receives a reduction in the economic benefit component of any penalty arising out of a disclosure, commensurate with the amount the entity commits to investing in pollution prevention at the facility.

The policy explicitly announces that it does not apply to criminal violations, does not create rights enforceable by any party, and does not restrict the authority or enforcement discretion of the Commissioner. The proposed policy sets forth ways in which the agency may exercise its discretion not to bestow the policy’s benefits on a given entity:

  • The policy excludes regulated entities deemed to have a “history of non-compliance.”
  • The policy excludes violations evidencing past noncompliance, violations reported by members of the public, violations discovered through DEC inspections, and violations legally required to be self-reported.
  • The policy excludes violations “resulting in a natural resources damage claim, serious actual harm, or one that may have presented an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment.”

The draft Environmental Audit Incentive Policy is available for public review and comment until April 22, 2013. Written comments may be addressed to

Monica Kreshik
NYSDEC
Office of General Counsel
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1500
ogc@gw.dec.state.ny.us

For more information about DEC’s draft Environmental Audit Incentive Policy, please contact Michael Lesser.



November 20, 2012

Spill Reports Surge Following Tropical Storm Sandy

By: Michael Bogin — Filed under: Compliance, Natural Disasters, New York Environmental Law — Posted at 4:09 pm

A recent review of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) Spills Database by the Long Island-based environmental consulting firm Roux Associates, Inc. shows that DEC has been inundated with nearly 1,700 new spills of chemicals, petroleum and other hazardous materials in the few weeks since Tropical Storm Sandy hit the region.  Typically, there would only be a few dozen spills over such a period.

 Below is a summary of the number of new spills opened by DEC in Region 1 and Regions 2 since the storm through November 12th:

  • Kings County– 91 Spills
  • New York County– 75 Spills
  • Queens County– 135 Spills
  • Richmond County– 80 Spills
  • Nassau County– 805 Spills
  • Suffolk County– 504 Spills

The Spills database shows that the vast majority of these reported spills are small residential releases.  There are far fewer industrial or commercial reports, but they appear to involve more serious releases—with larger quantities released and greater impacts on soil and/or groundwater.  How DEC will ultimately manage all of these spill remains to be seen.

Sive, Paget & Riesel has decades of experience managing spill reporting and remediation.  Please contact us if you need help understanding your obligations in a spill, have been impacted by a spill, or need assistance with a spill response.



November 11, 2012

DEC Temporarily Lifts Fees, Taxes from Hazardous Waste Caused by Sandy

By: SPR — Filed under: Compliance, Natural Disasters, New York Environmental Law — Posted at 9:55 pm

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) has issued a Hazardous Waste Generator Order that explains how to manage hazardous waste generated as a result of the storm in the affected counties of Suffolk, Nassau, New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx, Richmond, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange.

Hazardous waste generators who follow the terms of the Order will be exempt from the otherwise hefty hazardous waste generator fees and taxes under Articles 27 and 72 of New York’s Environmental Conservation Law. The Order provides expedited procedures for creating a hazardous waste consolidation area and requires that “Hurricane Sandy Waste” be written across the top of applicable waste manifests. Generators who do not have an EPA identification number or who create an off-site consolidation area must obtain a temporary EPA identification number.

The Order is in effect from November 6, 2012 until December 6, 2012.

For more information about managing cleanups in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, please contact Michael Bogin or David Yudelson.



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