Texas Chemical Plant and Citizens Right-to-Know under SARA Tier III

After the reporting by Matt Dempsey in the Houston Chronicle about the chemical explosions at Arkema I went to review the the federal regulations that are supposed to protect citizens’ right to know about what is in their environment. It was reported that the Arkema CEO, Rich Rowe refused to answer to what chemicals are stored on site and could potentially be released. I found this hard to believe because I know there are federal regulations that  are written specifically to protect people, wildlife and the environment.

In 1980 the Comprehensive Environmental Response, and Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better know as Superfund, was enacted. It was expanded and reauthorized in 1986. This reauthorization is called Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization (SARA). Title III of SARA (SARA III) is the  Emergency Response and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

These amendements to CERCLA came after the worst chemical release accident in history  that happened on December 2, 1984. The loss of life is said to be as low a 3,800 and as high as 16,000. The Union Carbide Pesticide plant in Bhopal, India that was later taken over by Dow Chemical. Read about the Bhopal incident here at The Atlantic.

The federal regulations under CERCLA and SARA III guide the planning and response. There should be a planning and response on these levels:

  1. Federal
  2. State
  3. Local

There are sections within several different federal regulations that contain a list of chemicals regulated.

Definitions Of Regulated Materials

Extremely Hazardous Substances (as defined by SARA Title III)

An extremely hazardous substance (EHS) is any substance regulated under SARA Title III, Sections 302–304. The EHSs are listed in Appendices A and B of Title 40, Part 355 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). View List of Extremely Hazardous Substances here.

Hazardous Chemicals (as defined by OSHA)

As defined by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), hazardous chemicals have the meaning given in Title 29, Section 1910.1200(c) of the CFR. It is any substance for which a facility must maintain a material safety data sheet (MSDS) under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard/Employee Right-to-Know regulations, but does not include the following: (1) any food, food additive, color additive, drug, or cosmetic regulated by the Food and Drug Administra- tion; (2) any substance present as a solid in any manufactured item to the extent exposure to the substance does not occur under normal conditions of use; (3) any substance used for personal, family, or household purposes, or is present in the same form and concentration as a product packaged for dis- tribution and use by the general public; (4) any substance used in a research laboratory or a hospital or other medical facility under the direct supervision of a technically qualified individual; or (5) any substance used in routine agricul- tural operations or fertilizer held for sale by a retailer to the ultimate customer.

Hazardous Substances (as defined by CERCLA)

A hazardous substance is a substance subject to reporting requirements un- der the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and listed in Title 40, Part 302.4 of the CFR. CERCLA Hazardous Substances List

Hazardous Waste
(as defined by RCRA)

As defined by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), hazard- ous waste is a solid waste, or combination of solid wastes which, because of quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may (a) cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness; or (b) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improp- erly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed. RCRA Hazardous Wastes List


Definitions Of Regulated Materials

Toxic Chemicals

Toxic chemicals are chemicals or chemical categories regulated under Section 313 of EPCRA. Toxic chemicals are listed in Title 40, Part 372.65 of the CFR. To obtain a list of toxic chemicals, see List of Lists below.

List of Lists

U.S. EPA has consolidated a number of the lists described above into one document known as the List of Lists. This document contains the lists of extremely hazardous substances, hazardous substances (as defined by CERCLA), Clean Air Act Section 112(r) substances, and toxic chemicals.
EPA List of Lists

The federal regulations determine what the state and local regulations or emergency planning commissions are required to do dependent on the type of facility. That is why I am perplexed by what may be happening in Houston. These are federal laws and the state of Texas doesn’t have the authority to ignore them.

My point is there are laws that require businesses and companies to ensure the safety of citizens and emergency responders. That means something is wonky with the CEO at Arkema Pesticide plant or something is wonky on the reporting in the Houston Chronicle. I kind of doubt that the reporter is lying so how is this company skirting these federal laws, if indeed this company is doing that.





Pope Francis’s Encyclical for Earth

The buzz over Pope Francis’s encyclical has grown to sound more like the roar of a river during spring snow melt. Rick Santorum, a Catholic, will melt down faster than the glaciers in the Himalayas, and John Boehner, with his requisite tears will cry the battle songs of capitalism. Let’s face it. This Pope took the name, Francis of Assisi; that nature loving, animal protecting friar that called all animals his brothers and sisters, for a reason. For Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, he believed that nature was the mirror of God. This pope could not have come at a time when this planet needs him more. Whether you are Catholic or not, you can believe that the pope influences the world. World leaders know this and world leaders are concerned that this pope will expose their debauchery of the planet’s gifts; those gifts that have fueled capitalism and exploitation of poor people and indigenous people ever since colonization began.

My disdain for the religious and the rampant hypocrisy and greed that we witness daily has grown equally with my age. But for a couple, I’ve come to loath religious leaders that intentionally allow the shibboleths of greed, hypocrisy, and false piousness to fall from their tongues while the sword they carry is ready to behead those most in need; the poor, the voiceless people victims of capitalism; and voiceless animals that are slaughtered for fun and entertainment. I’ve watched as growth of megachurches have filled the thousands of seats with people there to hear the message of the richest liars in the churches; Oral Roberts, Joal Olsteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and countless more that are living in castles and driving the Rolls Royces while the flock that empowered them to be millionaires struggles to stretch the last dollar between paychecks.  My heretic mind is dizzy from the millions of dollars and message of hate they spew. I fail to grasp why people clamor to hear their message of damnation and hell, and judgement of non-believers and worship of money.

I have spit on Christianity for many reasons, but the hypocrisy and message of hatred, and love of money at the expense of the poor and the earth’s gifts was front and center. As my distaste for the religiouscrats grew, enter Pope Francis. Pope Francis, who chastises capitalism for the harm it has done to the world’s poorest; for the harm it’s done to this earth due to the pillage of her bounties has softened my views on Christianity. What comes to my mind is the bible story of Jesus when he cleared the church of the money changers, the Pharisees. Jesus’s seven woes of the Pharisees:

  1. They taught about God but did not love God — they did not enter the kingdom of heaven themselves, nor did they let others enter. (Matt 23:13-14)
  2. They preached God but converted people to dead religion, thus making those converts twice as much sons of hell as they themselves were. (Matt 23:15)
  3. They taught that an oath sworn by the temple or altar was not binding, but that if sworn by the gold ornamentation of the temple, or by a sacrificial gift on the altar, it was The gold and gifts, however, were not sacred in themselves as the temple and altar were, but derived a measure of lesser sacredness by being connected to the temple or altar. The teachers and Pharisees worshiped at the temple and offered sacrifices at the altar because they knew that the temple and altar were sacred. How then could they deny oath-binding value to what was truly sacred and accord it to objects of trivial and derived sacredness? (Matt 23:16-22)
  4. They taught the law but did not practice some of the most important parts of the law — justice, mercy, faithfulness to God. They obeyed the minutiae of the law such as tithing spices but not the weightier matters of the law. (Matt 23:23-24)
  5. They presented an appearance of being ‘clean’ (self-restrained, not involved in carnal matters), yet they were dirty inside: they seethed with hidden worldly desires, carnality. They were full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matt 23:25-26)
  6. They exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were in fact not righteous: their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. They were full of wickedness. They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. (Matt 23:27-28)
  7. They professed a high regard for the dead prophets of old, and claimed that they would never have persecuted and murdered prophets, when in fact they were cut from the same cloth as the persecutors and murderers: they too had murderous blood in their veins. (Matt 23:29-36)

I do believe the modern day Pharisees who profess to be messengers of God, are scared of this pope. This pope may very well clear the churches of the money changers. The encyclical on climate change is officially released this coming Thursday, June 18, 2015. It’s already been leaked to the press, but I will wait to read it when it is officially released. No, I’ll never again claim Christianity as my belief, but I have finally found a religious leader that I can respect. It matters not whether I believe God is Jesus or whether I believe all things possess energy; the energy of the spirit and the soul. That is God. We all possess that spirit and soul. The spirit and soul of Earth has been raped, pillaged and robbed for centuries. We kill wildlife for ‘family fun’ and entertainment then go park our ass on a church pew to beat up on gays and unmarried mothers. Anyone who has ever peered into the eyes of the injured knows all animals possess a spirit and soul; anyone that has ever waded through a stream polluted and screaming with the stench of hydrocarbons knows that we can no longer sustain the capitalistic pursuits of colonialism.

This planet and this planet’s wildlife, and the people that are the poorest of the poor, and the regular joes doing their daily grind, blinded by reality TV and Facebook will read a message lacking the hypocrisy of the ‘pious’ politicians. These people, oblivious to the coming droughts, floods, wildfires and wars that will be brought on by climate change will react. They will profess, “Oh Lord, do you not see my beautiful mansion? The ornate is for you. Did I not fly on my own jet to speak your message?” The politicians are already preparing their rebuttals. However, the climate change fueled by colonialism and capitalism will be dealt a blow; just as Jesus dealt a blow when he threw out the Pharisee money changers. Pope Francis of Assisi could not have entered the world’s stage at a more desperate time.

Polar Bear_Pope

Chemical Silence of Acid Rain

Christmas has passed another year. My family is small now, so there was no big gathering and gorging at my house. I did, however, exchange presents and eat a fine meal with two aging biker dudes. One of them cooked. The other one is my older brother, a 6’4” carpenter extraordinaire with his knees, hands, and feet worn out from too many years climbing ladders and swinging hammers. It’s not unusual for me to spend a holiday dinner with my brother and his friend, Toad, who loves cooking holiday meals. We thrash politicians and solve the world’s problems. Many a good conversation emerges from these thrashing discussions. Mostly, we get rounds of laughs at the absurdity of our surroundings and the people in society.

Most discussions with me invariably lead to the environmental problems we now face on planet earth. It’s what I do. It’s how I earn my living. Animals, earth and the health of our natural world provide me reason to breathe, to think, to explore and to wring my hands over the multitude of problems our planet and its inhabitants face. Out of the dinner table discussions, my brother told about a road trip on the bike that he and his club brothers had done back in the early 90’s. They were camped in a state park close to Cherokee, NC.  These guys were hard core. They slept on the ground with a bed roll. When you’re travelling on a Harley you don’t have room to pack a tent and an ice chest. You just roll. My brother said they had been in this state park for a couple nights. When he woke the second morning it hit him that there was nothing but silence. They were surrounded by woods and there should have been birds chirping, branches shaking when a squirrel scurries from one limb to another. The woods spoke only silence. There were no birds full of morning song; no limbs rustled by squirrels. None. There were not even any bugs crawling or buzzing mosquitoes biting. My brother said there a couple of guys fly fishing in a beautiful, clear water stream, but he said, “sis, there were no fish in that stream! You will usually see an assortment of life that we take for granted, but that beautiful little creek had no bugs, no minnows, no nothing—–not even moss.” My brother explained that the eerie silence of nature was the result of acid rain that has been such a problem in the Northeastern region of the U.S.

Acid rain. It made sense. I’ve not personally spent any time in the NE, and haven’t experienced the effects of acid rain. How could any small animal, whether it’s a mammal, a bug, a tree or a fish in the stream survive an environment that is too acidic? They can’t. I’ve not studied the acid rain issue, but have certainly heard of the phenomenon for many years. I’m not here today to get into chastising discussion of the damage we humans have done since we’ve released our ‘progress’ across the globe. Most of us grasp the damage of burning fossil fuels. We grasp that with industrialization the rate and quantity of the chemicals released in the process, SO2 and NOx’s, are the constituents that make up acid rain. I’m not even here to discuss the dying spruce and fir trees on Mount Mitchell. I’ve never been to North Carolina, let alone Mt. Mitchell.

I only wanted to relay a family story: My biker brother waking up from a night of sleeping on the ground to the sound of death in our natural world. That short story from a day long past made me sit up and take notice of the possible future we face. Yes, I know the acid rain issue has been worked on by scientists and regulators for decades. It is however, just one more sign of the damage of our ‘progress’.

When will we progress enough to say enough?

Oak Flat Plea: #RemovetheRiders from NDAA

There is an atrocity getting ready to happen to America. In the wings of Congress they are preparing  to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This ‘must pass’ bill has multiple riders attached that will devastate a pristine and unique ecosystem in the Tonto National Forest. It is called the Oak Flats and is not only an ancestral land area of great cultural significance to the San Carlos Apache, but it is a recreational area that has been used for multiple generations of Arizonans and other Americans. It is unique in that there is crystal clear and cold water with beautiful waterfalls and a unique oak forest that is a short distance above the hot Sonoran desert.

Oak Flat Gaan Canyon

Oak Flats is home for many species of wildlife like black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coatimundis, fox, and many more. The Resolution Copper Mining Company is a subsidiary of Rio Tonto, an Australian mining company. Our elected Senators have essentially taken what is rightfully owned by every last American and given it to this foreign company to destroy with a copper mining technique that will cause this land to cave in just as if an earthquake hit it. It will be gone forever. To see what you and all of the animals dependent on the ecosystem will lose watch this short video, Oak Flats in Tonto NF. Would you trade a mansion for a shack? That is what our elected Senators have done to each and every one of us. If they vote to pass the NDAA with the riders that is exactly what they have accomplished. We had a mansion. They took it and have convinced us that a shack is just as wonderful.

To see more thorough coverage of the issue watch, The Great Oak Flat Giveaway A small group of people, plus the San Carlos Apache have been fighting against this give away for years. You will see how Senator John McCain and other elected Senators and Representatives have conspired to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to give our land to a foreign mining company to extract and destroy.

This is almost a done deal. If our elected Senators pass the NDAA with the riders, and they will pass it, we must not give up this fight. I have only learned of this fight over the Oak Flats a week ago. I am ready and willing to stand with the San Carlos Apache, and all of the hikers, climbers, campers, biologists and outdoor enthusiasts to stop this atrocity on Americans. There must be a legal avenue to stop this action.

Oak Flat Gaan Canyon

Dead Rottweiler Creek

My field data collection this week allows time alone, and time for the brain to contemplate the worth of my job. Perhaps, the worth of myself, my future and my past. It’s a stupid job, I thought, as I traveled the backroads, bumpy from potholes filled, refilled and somewhere in the process of caving again as I trudged between one muddy, incised little creek to the next. These aren’t pretty cobble bottom brooks. These are prairie streams; muddy, silty and trivial to nearby residents. They are as deserted from public interest as the tiny towns that dot the rural Oklahoma landscape. A few are trashed with the discarded items of someone’s life; a broken dustpan, a kid’s bike frame rusting with age, or the family rottweiler haphazardly shoved inside a 50lb feed bag that was thrown over the bridge. Poor dog, his head and shoulders didn’t fit inside the bag and his collar with tags were still wrapped around his neck. Maybe the dog got sick and died, much like these streams are sick and suffering. Usually, it’s not the obvious trash buoyed on top a stagnated creek that is the biggest culprit. The biggest culprit to the stream’s health is the junk you don’t see, like too much phosphorus, or too much nitrate running down from a farmer’s field. Or, it may be the dirt and sediment carried in flow from the rain down rivulets on a slope land cleared of the grass and trees.

Like the rottweiler’s family that lacked the care to bury him, or even enough interest to remove his collar to keep as a memento of a devoted dog, the health of these streams don’t generate much care or interest from the public. What I do seems pointless. Yes, I can test the water. When I pull a water sample, I can run tests to see how much phosphorus or nitrate is in this spot of the stream at this time of the day. I can see how much or how little dissolved oxygen is present, the temperature of the water and the level of salinity. But then what? Nothing. There are few fixes if problems are present. That would entail interest in a muddy little creek that no one cares about.

I like tangible results. I like solutions when a problem is encountered. I like people that love and care enough to bury their dog. I like people that will keep their beloved dog’s collar tucked away in a drawer to revisit from time to time when they miss the way his tail wagged when they arrived home from their jobs. Not an insignificant job like mine, but a job that provides something worthy to someone, a job that resolves problems, a job that isn’t forgotten and lost on a dusty backroad of rural Oklahoma.


Senator Inhofe And The Heartland Institute Roll Out Underwhelming Campaign To Slash The EPA

Oklahoma Senator Inhofe is up to his same old, goofy tricks. However; I don’t think it will work. This man is such a slug. Please Senator Inhofe, go find someone other country to slime.

pOklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe joins the Heartland Institute at the Capitol building this morning to unveil a new campaign to rein in the “rogue” Environmental Protection Agency. Inhofe is best known for his tirades against established climate science; the fringe Heartland Institute is best known for its billboard campaign comparing people concerned about climate […]/p

via Senator Inhofe And The Heartland Institute Roll Out Underwhelming Campaign To Slash The EPA.

My Day Job in the Creeks

That’s me with the black tank and Aussie hat. A group of us were looking at the caddisflies in Honey Creek, a pretty stream in NE OK. Since this was a few years ago, I don’t remember why we were there. It wasn’t a training, so it must have been a tour of some type. Yes, it was work related. It’s fun to splash around pretty creeks and get paid to do it.

Honey Creek is a beautiful creek. I wish I worked in this creek. How fun it would be to work here.


I work in this creek. It’s Josie Creek in McIntosh County, OK. It’s not a bad creek; it’s a neat creek, with lots of deadfall. This creek has little springs that trickle water from undercut banks, and up from the substrate. The substrate is typically a white sandy-clay. There’s been many a day that I’ve dilly-dallied around while watching water bubble up through the white sand of the substrate. That mesmerizes me.



And I work in this creek……………

I love working in the winter! There is no poison ivy to attack me in the winter. There is no salty sweat burning my eyes in the winter. I love winter!





I’ll leave you with this:





This is definitely an incised bank. It’s not such a pretty picture, but it is what I come across often with the stream I monitor.


I stepped onto my back patio and looked south beyond the Arkansas River. It flows past a few miles down the hill from my old, sandstone house. It was as if I could see the smoke rise from the ashes of Texas. It’s an anomaly, I told myself. Don’t blame the drought and fires on climate change. Not yet. It’ll only give fodder to the skeptics. This is weather, not climate. But Texas kept burning. Millions of acres scorched beneath the hottest summer in my lifetime. Then New Mexico burned, and Arizona burned when it wasn’t blanketed by dust storms blown in by a weather phenomenon called a haboob. Yes, I learned a new word; Haboob, an intense dust storm in dry, desert regions. The haboobs looked like Hollywood dropped a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the metropolis of Phoenix. I’m glad I watched via YouTube on a laptop; no need for me to experience a haboob, firsthand.

Remembering the previous winter, I smiled to think the snow was almost to my knees for over two weeks. In Oklahoma, I’m lucky to get enough snow to top my ankle boots, let along reach my knees. And it melts within a few days. Typically. That winter was not typical. We smashed the low temperature records by 10-15° F all over the state. Apparently, the winter snow pack in the Rockies was good enough for the spring melt to replenish the Colorado River, which was a good thing since Lake Mead and Lake Powell were at historically low levels. I wondered if the people in Phoenix ever worried about a lack of water to refill their pools. I sort of doubt that most worry about dry spigots and empty swimming pools. I could be wrong.

Spring arrived, and with spring came tornadoes. Many tornadoes. Back to back tornadoes squashed entire towns in the Southern states. I was in Montana enjoying the view of Flathead Lake outside my hotel. In the background, the television broke the coverage of Prince William’s wedding with news from Tuscaloosa, AL after a series of tornados left a devastating loss of life. Those of us in tornado alley usually take them in stride with minimum amounts of precautions. Well, we did until Joplin was hit with an EF-5. I sat at my laptop and watched my favorite meteorologist’s conversation with a stunned and shaken stormchaser. Joplin was gone. The stormchaser reported he recognized nothing. Everything was gone. Obliterated. Having grown up in tornado alley, this was the first time I paid attention. We have the best meteorologists, the best technology, and the best storm warning signals in the nation. How did this happen?

As the nation helped the survivors in Joplin, June bounded upon us like a Sun God with fireballs in his pockets, throwing them indiscriminately in every direction. June branded us with triple digits every day. High temperature records fell like the starving cattle in the parched state of Texas. One day, after lunch, I stepped outside and into the 115° F temperature. June’s branding iron sizzled a message on my forehead: ‘New Normal’. Oklahoma is a hot state, but not 115° hot. I had never felt 115°, and don’t care to ever experience it again. No thank you. Summer does not suit me as it does most people. I loathe hot weather. It’s my bitch season where I count the days until the coolness of fall and the beauty of winter snowfalls. However, following the hottest summer I ever experienced, winter never arrived. Not only was there no knee deep snow, there wasn’t any snow. It was barely what I call cold. And why is it that not one of the primary news stations ever questions a nexus of climate change to the weather related disasters?

Last summer when I received a late night text message from a New Mexico friend when the fire broke out near Los Alamos Laboratories, it said, “Pray for us”. La Nina played havoc with the weather last summer. There were over 73,000 wildfires, and nearly 9 million acres burned. The pictures of the cracked and dry soil in Texas linger in my mind. I thought, “Let’s wait and see what happens next year. The rain may come and break the drought that devastates the crops and livestock. La Nina won’t stay indefinitely. But when I had to mow the grass the first week of March, I didn’t tell myself it was an anomaly. I told myself that an anomaly was a possibility, but unlikely. Sure, La Nina is still affecting our weather, but I when I drag out the mower six weeks earlier than normal, and mow two weeks later into the fall, it is not an anomaly. When climatologists ring warning bells, it’s not an anomaly. Following the warm and dry winter, the fire season started early in Colorado Rockies. Now there are outbreaks of wildfires on New York’s Long Island, which is rare according to news sources. March, 2012 broke heat records across North America, but nary a word about climate change on any the main news channels.

Sila, is a word the Inuit use to describe the notion that weather equals consciousness. Perhaps, we need a word to describe the climate change coma that predominates American politics and policy. There will be more fires and floods. There will be prolonged drought. Odds are that Lake Mead and Lake Powell water levels will drop below the dead pool zone during my lifetime. I can do little but watch. Perhaps we need a new normal in American politics. This new normal would trend toward action in policy from politicians rather than fear driven by lies of those who bankroll the legislators. I won’t count on that happening. If it did, it would be an anomaly. Until then, we’ll watch the fires and the floods and the funerals.

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