Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Region 9 Strategic Plan, 2011-14
Cleaning Up Communities and Advancing Sustainable Communities
Sections on this Page
EPA’s primary tools for cleaning up our communities are the Superfund law, officially known as CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) along with RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), OPA (Oil Pollution Act), and EPCRA (Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act). The following objectives encompass actions that may be taken under any one of these authorities.
Cleaning Up Communities
EPA’s mandate includes eliminating exposures to uncontrolled hazardous waste, enforcing laws on waste management and preventing waste from being generated in the first place. We deal with facilities that have been permitted or sites that have been listed on Superfund’s National Priorities List, and we respond to smaller dangerous sites discovered throughout the year.
EPA’s Superfund program cleans up the most seriously contaminated sites in the country. Region 9 has a predominance of large, complex sites, including many square miles of contaminated ground water, former commercial landfills, operating and closed military installations and many historic mines. We subdivide our sites into project areas to prioritize clean ups and address the most toxic and high risk areas first to protect nearby residents and sensitive ecosystems.
Protect people and the environment from potential exposures to hazardous and toxic waste at contaminated properties:
- Conduct site assessment activities to evaluate sites about which the public or local agencies notify us, and complete remedial site assessment reports. We will complete 200 site assessments in 2012 (which includes reassessments, preliminary assessments, and site inspections) and 100 site assessments in each subsequent year for the next five years. (The FY12 numbers are significantly higher due to completing work on the Navajo mining lands five-year plan.) Based on these assessments, we will determine whether the sites qualify for immediate action or warrant longer-term and more detailed studies, and decide which sites are proposed for NPL listing, or referred to a state or other entity.
- Complete short-term cleanups at 14 smaller, more dangerous sites using Superfund emergency response resources and oversee completion of another 14 short-term cleanups conducted by potentially responsible parties each year. Over the next five years, complete 60 emergency cleanups and oversee an additional 60 private party emergency cleanups.
- At the larger, more complex NPL Superfund sites, complete 17 remedial actions (cleanup) in 2012 which will significantly reduce the risk of exposure to nearby residents and the environment, and bring the sites closer to completion.
- We will complete all construction activities at 3 of our NPL sites in 2012 as well. We plan to complete construction (when all remedial actions at the NPL site are in place and operational) at 10 more sites in next the five years.
Respond to accidental or intentional releases of oil or hazardous materials, and clean up contaminated sites. EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) are on call 24/7 to respond to releases of pollutants that threaten human health and the environment.
- Prevent oil spills and enhance preparedness by focusing enforcement on critical inland waterways through compliance inspections and unannounced drills. We will conduct 25 of these drills each year to test the responsiveness and capabilities in the region.
- Complete the geographic response plans for the three zones along the lower Colorado River (from the Hoover Dam to the Mexico Border) by the end of 2012. This effort will be accomplished through a partnership among the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the states of Nevada, Arizona and California, as well as local and tribal governments. The effort involves geospatial analysis and spill response support to protect natural resources and cultural resources along more than 700 miles of riverbank shoreline with hundreds of stakeholders.
Reduce environmental footprint of EPA-led cleanups and promote sustainable re-use of contaminated properties.
- In coordination with EPA headquarters rollout, apply methodology on principles of life cycle assessment for better-informed remedial decisions at hazardous waste cleanups. Perform the analysis at 3 Fund-lead and 3 Federal facility sites in 2012. In 2012, evaluate how life cycle analyses impacted decisions and site actions, and determine applicability for all sites, and at what stage in the cleanup. Our goal is to integrate the methodology into our site decision-making process, if the tool proves to be a valuable addition to our program.
- Include the evaluation of lower carbon footprint technologies, such as in-situ treatment solutions in Feasibility Studies for Superfund sites. Continue training project managers in new technologies and techniques for reducing the ecological footprint of cleanups while maintaining protectiveness and meeting regulatory requirements.
- Develop renewable energy to provide power for one additional Superfund cleanup in 2012. In addition, for EPA-led cleanups, work with EPA Headquarters on purchasing renewable energy certificates to off-set our energy needs. Our goal is to have 100% of our fund-lead cleanup energy needs off-set through renewable energy certificates. Alternatively, we would have all our sites powered in part from either on-site renewable power or through renewable energy certificates.
- Promote the RE-Powering America’s Lands project for constructing utility scale renewable energy projects on contaminated lands, including former mine sites, Superfund sites, and active and closing federal facilities. In 2011, we worked with HQ on solicitation and evaluation of projects, nine of which were in the region, and will work with the four selected grantees (one in Arizona, three in California) in 2012 to evaluate sites for renewable energy.
Address the impacts of solid waste accumulating in the Pacific Gyre. Prevent land-based debris from entering the marine environment by improving permit requirements under the Clean Water Act, enhancing enforcement and supporting key State of California initiatives to strengthen policies.
- Reduce land-based sources through increased enforcement and develop innovative tools to identify and reduce the packaging most commonly found in beach and litter surveys. Work with the Department of Defense in developing an agreement to: a) sight and report the type, location and approximate quantity of marine debris in the ocean; b) aspire to zero shipboard waste; and c) implement a beach cleanup protocol that segregates debris by type, measures volume of each type and identifies the source of the plastics to the extent possible. The agreement will be drafted in early 2012.
- Conduct toxicity studies of the effects of marine plastic ingestion on pelagic fish with California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and collaborate with the University of California at San Diego and the University of California at Davis on a controlled lab study. The studies are designed to analyze the potential transfer and resulting effects of marine plastic debris contaminated with persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs and DDT from ambient sea water on fish tissue. Reports to be completed in 2012. If fish tissue studies identify a substantial risk, we will develop an approval memorandum to proceed with evaluating appropriate response actions.
- Tsunami-derived Debris: In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Coast Guard, Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), assess the location, volumes and movement of debris from the Japanese tsunami. We are currently working with the University of Hawaii, the Oceania Regional Response Team and the Inter-agency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee to develop a both a short term strategy targeted to assess the magnitude and impacts of the tsunami debris, and a long term strategy to find and record macro and micro marine debris in the area surrounding and impacting the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Support sustainable development through assessment, cleanup and revitalization of brownfields and contaminated lands, and green jobs training.
- Through a competitive national grant competition, we anticipate awarding approximately 15 new Brownfields grants each year throughout the region, totaling $2.5-3 million each year, to assess 40 brownfields sites, and clean up 3 brownfield sites identified by previous efforts. Develop Brownfields grants applications in high priority geographic areas including the San Joaquin Valley, Navajo Nation, Guam, and the I-710 Corridor. The changing landscape for redevelopment agencies in California may impact the number of successful grant applicants we fund compared with previous years.
- Manage Area Wide Planning Grants: Citizens for a Better Environment - Huntington Park, California; City of Phoenix; Neighborhood Parks Council - San Francisco; Jacobs Center - San Diego to promote community participation in redevelopment planning in neighborhoods surrounding brownfield sites. This up-front planning with citizen engagement at the beginning of a brownfields redevelopment project ensures that community members shape the project and influence redevelopment in their neighborhood.
Increase access and resources for under served communities to be more involved in decisions about hazardous waste sites that impact them.
- Use Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) to provide scientific advisors to 1-2 communities living near contaminated sites. This program provides independent technical advisors of the communities’ choosing to help them understand site related technical information. This program is more limited in scope than the Technical Assistance Grants (TAG) which are available to communities surrounding NPL Superfund sites, and is targeted at only those communities that have an added need for independent assistance.
Promoting Sustainable Materials Management
- Sustainable materials management supports opportunities to reduce environmental impacts across the life cycle of materials. This includes how materials are mined, manufactured, used, reused, recycled, and finally disposed. We are working nationally and with communities throughout Region 9 to gain efficiencies in sustainable materials management, resulting in greenhouse gas reductions, conservation of materials and water, and reduced volume and toxicity of waste.
- In 2012, launch a website of work products and resources developed by the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum, an EPA-led partnership of West Coast cities and states. The website will include a Materials Management Toolkit that provides assistance to state and local governments implementing materials management life cycle approaches in their Climate Action Plans.
- In 2012, recruit two to five colleges and universities to reduce food waste and increase food waste diversion through the national Food Recovery Challenge. Develop tools, case studies, and web resources that will be used to advance reduction and diversion throughout the University of California and California State University systems.
- Co-lead, with EPA Region 10, the national Federal Green Challenge (FGC). The Challenge aims to reduce federal facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions by 5% or more per year in two of six areas: electronics, energy, purchasing, transportation, waste, and water. By the end of 2012, EPA Region 9 will recruit at least 50 FGC partners, provide technical assistance, and create a website to help provide support and highlight success.
- With the City of Tracy, develop a decision-support tool by 2012 for recycling and composting. The tool will enable cities to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and environmental benefit of various solid waste reduction strategies.
Ensuring Safe Waste Management
As we strive to minimize toxicity and eliminate waste, strong and vigilant oversight of the remaining waste that is generated is key to preventing harm to communities and the environment. Forty years ago, contamination from mismanagement and spills was common. Today, we are controlling hazardous waste from "cradle-to-grave" under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), issuing and enforcing permits, and overseeing cleanups. RCRA also sets forth a framework for municipal solid waste management and enables EPA and states and tribes to address environmental problems that can result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances. While waste management has improved markedly, there is still much to be done.
Protect people and the environment from potential exposures to hazardous and toxic waste at contaminated properties: Complex environmental problems (such as contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater) persist at many contaminated properties that can cause human health concerns. We are accelerating the pace of cleanups by:
- Partnering with our states and tribes to reduce the potential for human exposure to hazardous waste contamination by controlling potential exposures at an average of 12 hazardous waste cleanup sites per year through 2014.
- Partnering with our states and tribes to select final cleanup remedies at an average of 15 hazardous waste sites per year through 2014. Our goal is to ensure completion of final remedy construction at 95% of the over 300 high-priority sites in Region 9 by 2020.
- Partnering with our states and tribes to clean up at least 850 leaking underground storage tank sites per year in 2011 and 2012. There are approximately 10,000 leaking underground storage tank sites in EPA Region 9.
- Ensuring EPA review and action on proposed PCB cleanups. We will approve approximately 5 sites per year. PCB cleanups are driven primarily by redevelopment activity and our timely approval is critical to ensure that safe economic development continues.
Protect communities and workers from exposures at hazardous waste and PCB facilities subject to EPA or state permits: Hazardous waste and PCB permitting programs help ensure safe treatment, storage, and disposal by establishing specific requirements that must be followed when managing those wastes. With our state partners, we will review and act on both renewals of existing permits and new facilities’ permit applications.
- Partner with our states to issue or renew nine hazardous waste permits each year within Region 9 to contribute to the national goal of 100 permit issuances or renewals per year. We will focus on a host of site-specific technical issues as needed including groundwater, air monitoring, and waste management.
- EPA will make two PCB permit renewal decisions each year during 2012 through 2014. There are a total of six permitted PCB facilities in Region 9.
HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities
The Housing and Urban Development/Department of Transportation/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities was launched by the three federal agencies to help communities develop in more environmentally and economically sustainable ways. In 2012-2013, with our partners, we will build capacity in communities and advance the consideration of equity in land-use and transportation planning.
- Provide technical assistance to three communities that received HUD and DOT planning grants in 2011 (San Joaquin Valley, Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Honolulu) by providing information and resources to minimize impacts associated with transportation and land use.
- Build smart growth capacity in 4 communities by providing tools and resources (including Walkability Audits and Complete Streets Audits) to help communities achieve their desired development goals, improve the quality of life for their residents, and make their communities more economically and environmentally sustainable.
- Encourage equity considerations and involvement of community groups in federally-funded planning activities by facilitating access and information sharing.
Reducing Environmental Impacts through Environmental Review
EPA reduces impacts to the environment by fostering stewardship and improved planning for major federal projects through our review and comments on Environmental Impact Statements, pursuant to our National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) authority. Transportation, energy, major infrastructure, and mining projects are priorities.
Reduce impacts from major federal projects and promote sustainable transportation and energy development through NEPA reviews.
- Work with California High Speed Rail Authority and partners to implement the High Speed Rail Sustainability MOU, which outlines measures to minimize the environmental impacts of the future rail system, improve the livability of communities near planned stations, and promote renewable energy options.
- Reduce impacts from the transportation sector by advancing the consideration of health impacts, promoting advance mitigation for impacts to biological and aquatic resources, and incorporating measures to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
- Minimize the adverse environmental impacts of five proposed energy, major infrastructure, and water projects through NEPA review of federal environmental impact statements.
- Minimize risks of surface water, ground water, and long-term land contamination from two proposed mining projects. Proactively encourage appropriate mine design and financial assurance, in order to prevent avoidable degradation of water and land, and to ensure availability of adequate resources for remediation, where needed.