November 1, 2010
Cleaning the air
Luck Stone initiative with EPA, others means cleaner, greener power at four plants.
By Tina Grady Barbaccia
Funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Virginia Clean Cities and James Madison University will help launch the first construction repowering project in Virginia to reduce harmful diesel pollution at four Luck Stone plants operating in Richmond, Charlottesville, Leesburg, and Burkeville.
EPA’s $710,000 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant, combined with $1.1 million from Richmond, Va.-based Luck Stone, will enable the company to repower or replace 11 off-road construction vehicles with new, more efficient diesel engines and generators.
“Putting clean diesel engines to use will bring cleaner, healthier air for the workers and neighborhoods surrounding these plants,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “EPA is pleased to support Virginia Clean Cities’ newest initiative to improve air quality and public health for Virginia’s citizens.”
The company is “honored to be participating in the inaugural construction repower project for Virginia along with the EPA, James Madison University, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, and Virginia Clean Cities,” said Doug Palmore, Luck Stone’s vice president of environmental design and development. “This partnership lines up perfectly with our environmental ethic and practices which focus on creating a net positive outcome for the environment and communities we serve.”
The Luck Stone project is the first construction equipment repowering project in Virginia to be funded by EPA. The new engines will result in a 50-percent reduction in nitrogen oxides and 65-percent reduction in particulate matter for each piece of equipment. Annually, the project will eliminate 30.85 tons of nitrogen oxide, 2 tons of particulate matter, 11.93 tons of carbon monoxide, and 2.74 tons of hydrocarbons from being emitted at the four plants. In addition, the project will create about 20 jobs.
“The heavy trucks and equipment that are being repowered or replaced are not only striking in their size and capability, but are critical to Luck Stone’s ability to provide quality crushed stone,” said Virginia Clean Cities Executive Director Chelsea Jenkins. “Virginia Clean Cities and James Madison University are energized to participate in such a significant project that will aide in curbing the impact such equipment has on the environment and, ultimately, Virginia’s economy and the health of its citizens.”
For more information
EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign Web site:
EPA’s regional diesel Web site:
Luck Stone Corp. corporate Web site:
Virginia Clean Cities:
MSHA develops new mine screening standards
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has begun developing new screening criteria for the pattern of violations (POV) enforcement program, which gives the agency additional enforcement tools to use at mines with a history of violating safety standards.
The agency says this is a critical first step in reforming the current POV enforcement program. MSHA announced plans to draft new regulations governing the program in the spring and the new criteria following calls by Congress and the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General to fix serious flaws in the current system. The agency has already been moving forward with the second phase in major reforms to its POV process, which includes tougher provisions for mines with chronic and persistent violations of significant health and safety regulations.
MSHA’s decision to develop the mine screening criteria coincides with the release of an independent analysis prepared by the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General which noted: “In 32 years, MSHA has never successfully exercised its Pattern of Violation authority.”
“We agree with the final recommendations in the OIG report and welcome that input, which we believe will help us improve the process already underway at MSHA,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a prepared statement. “Our efforts are focused on ensuring that future potential POV and POV determinations are an effective part of MSHA’s enforcement strategy and advance Congress’ intent — that mine operators find and fix the root causes of violations before they become a hazard to miners.”
Main says that since the passage of the Mine Act more than 30 years ago, “not one mining operation has ever been placed on a pattern of violations. We have known for some time that the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. This new screening process improves upon the old one, which cast too broad a net and did not distinguish mines with the highest levels of elevated enforcement. This new system will let MSHA focus its attention on those mines that are putting miners at greatest risk.”
Main says that MSHA’s changes to the POV program cannot fix shortcomings that require legislation or changes to the existing regulations, but that “this is a stop-gap measure until reform can occur.
“We are aggressively pursuing both regulatory and legislative reforms, but in the meantime, this new policy improves our ability to identify problem mines,” Main continues. “Our goal with each of these reform efforts is to identify mines with a pattern of dangerous conditions and encourage them to improve their safety records. If a mine fails to do so, it will be placed into POV status.”
Section 104(e) of the federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) provides that mine operators with a pattern of significant and substantial (S&S) violations be subject to closure orders for areas of the mine affected by those violations until the mine receives a clean inspection. Under current regulations, MSHA uses a screening process to determine whether a mine has a potential pattern of violations. A mine operator found to have a potential pattern of violations is given a period of time to reduce violations before MSHA uses its authority under 104(e) to issue closure orders.
According to the legislative history of the Mine Act, POV provisions are intended for use “at mines with a record of repeated [significant and substantial] violations and where the other enforcement provisions of the statute have not been effective in bringing the mine into compliance with federal health and safety standards.” The preamble to the existing final rule states that “MSHA expects to reserve the use of the 104(e) sanctions for mines where the operator has not responded to an escalating series of enforcement actions by the Agency.”
“MSHA’s changes to the screening process are designed to meet these statutory and regulatory objectives,” said Main. “The new screening criteria will draw more attention to the so-called ‘bad actors’ than did the old criteria. They will focus on mines that exhibit chronic failures to maintain safe working conditions, have repeated significant and substantial violations, and have not responded to other enforcement tools.”
The new screening process is designed to identify mines that have been subject to closure orders, including closure orders for serious issues such as failing to correct violations after MSHA cites them, unwarrantable failures to comply with health or safety standards, failure to provide miners with required training, and imminent dangers in the mine. The criteria will better identify mines where these tools have been used, but have not been sufficient to improve compliance. The criteria also will consider whether a mine has high numbers of S&S violations involving elevated negligence, as well as a mine’s injury severity rate, targeting operations with an above-average injury severity measure. All of these factors are either new to the screening criteria or given greater emphasis than before.
The quantitative criteria use the most recent available 12 months of health and safety data to screen for mines. The screening criteria address two categories of violators. In the first category, a mine must exhibit high numbers of S&S violations (at least 50); have S&S violations either issued at an elevated rate (eight per 100 inspection hours) or at elevated levels (25 percent or more) of negligence; have a high rate of elevated enforcement actions (.5 per 100 inspection hours); and have an elevated record of severe injuries (above the industry rate).
The second category targets mines that do not meet the above criteria, but still have high numbers of S&S violations and elevated enforcement actions — at least 100 S&S citations/orders and at least 40 elevated citations/orders.
In addition, as required under current regulations, the screening requires mines in both categories to have either repeated S&S violations of the same standard (at least five) or repeated S&S violations caused by an unwarrantable failure to comply with the law (at least two).
For more information on MSHA’s Pattern of Violations guidance, go to www.aggman.com and click on Digital Edition.