Thursday, March 13, 2014

EPA to Lift Suspension and Debarment of BP

Agreement contains strong provisions to continue safety and ethics improvements in order to comply

The Environmental Protection Agency and BP today executed an agreement resolving all suspension and debarment actions against BP that barred the company from doing business with the federal government following the company’s guilty plea in the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010. The administrative agreement will be in place for five years.

“This is a fair agreement that requires BP to improve its practices in order to meet the terms we’ve outlined together,” said EPA Assistant Administrator of Administration and Resources Craig Hooks. “Many months of discussions and assessments have led up to this point, and I’m confident we’ve secured strong provisions to protect the integrity of federal procurement programs.”

Under the agreement, BP is required to retain an independent auditor approved by EPA who will conduct an annual review and report on BP’s compliance with the agreement. There are also specific provisions addressing ethics compliance, corporate governance, and process safety. The agreement additionally provides EPA the authority to take appropriate corrective action in the event the agreement is breached. EPA coordinated this matter with the Department of Interior, Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. Coast Guard.

Since November 2012, EPA has suspended 25 BP entities and disqualified
BP Exploration and Production, Inc. from performing federal contract work at its corporate facility in Houston, Texas, stemming from its criminal conviction in the U.S. Government’s Deepwater Horizon case. Suspensions are issued where there is an immediate need to protect the public interest supported by adequate evidence. The suspension did not affect existing agreements BP had with the government.  The agreement announced today takes effect immediately. (EPA)

East Harlem Natural Gas Explosion

Two Manhattan apartment buildings exploded on Wednesday in East Harlem and the death toll currently stands at seven people with many others missing.  A gas leak-triggered the explosion that reduced the area to a pile of smashed bricks, splinters and mangled metal.  The explosion injured more than 60 people, with searchers still trying to locate others.   The site is at Park Avenue and 116th Street and the blast erupted at about 9:30 a.m., around 15 minutes after a neighboring resident reported smelling gas. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they didn't arrive until it was too late.

A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings said residents had complained to the landlord about smelling gas as recently as Tuesday.  A few weeks ago city fire officials were called about the odor, which was so bad that a tenant on the top floor broke open the door to the roof for ventilation.
The fire department said a check of its records found no instances in the past month in which tenants of the two buildings reported gas odors or leaks.

Con Ed said there was only one gas odor complaint on record with the utility from either address, and it was last May, at the building next door to Borrero's. It was a small leak in customer piping and was fixed.
Con Ed said it remains to be seen whether the leak was in a company main or in customer-installed inside plumbing. The gas main that serves the area was made of plastic and cast iron, and the iron dated to 1887.
Age is not in and of itself an issue with cast iron. Con Edison has a cast iron replacement program and the pipe was not slated to be removed in the next three-year period.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team is investigating. The agency investigates pipeline accidents in addition to transportation disasters.  The NTSB team investigators will be looking at how Con Edison handles reports of gas odors and issues with the pipe and will be constructing a timeline of events.  (AP, NECN, 3/12/2014)

Monday, March 3, 2014

New York City Environmental Justice Hearing


By Dan Durett

AAEA President Norris McDonald and I testified at the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection on Friday, February 28, 2014.  The title of the hearing was: "Oversight - Air quality impacts and ways to measure and address them in NYC environmental justice communities."  The committee has a new chairman, Donovan Richards, and apparently a refreshing new interest in examining environmental justice issues in New York City.

Donovan Richards, Norris McDonald

AAEA - NY is promoting a New York City Environemental Justice Act that would provide protection for environmental justice communities.  AAEA derived the legislation from a draft of the National Environmental Justice Act [at the link behind the NY EJ Act].

It was an incredible four hour hearing.  Stakeholders from throughout the city testified to the need for protection from disproportionate pollution.  Leading environmental justice activists presented the chair and committee with testimonial after testimonial about the vulnerability and lack of protection from pollution. 

The first panel included the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner Thomas Matte. 

Dan Durett at the NY City Council Environmental Justice Hearing

Norris McDonald's testimony focused on asthma and my testimony focused on pollution sites.

Hearing video [AAEA appearance begins at 2:20.50]