Archive by Author

OSHA Silica Rule Making

28 Aug

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is currently reviewing its rules concerning exposure to silica. As demand for silica sand increases due to its use in hydraulic fracturing, OSHA has determined that existing standards need to be reviewed so that workers and others with potential exposure to silica dust are protected. Silica, when ingested or inhaled, leads to serious health consequences including, but not limited to, lung disease, renal (kidney) disease, and scleroderma, a disease which affects skin, joints, blood vessels and skeletal muscles.

If you have questions concerning OSHA’s silica rule making process or any other questions related to silica mining, please contact Thorn & Associates at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Chicago Urban Agriculture

7 Aug

Urban agriculture represents an innovative and ecofriendly method of growing and consuming food. In the city of Chicago, urban agriculture is regulated under section 17-2-0207 of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. The Ordinance updates use categories and details the size and types of urban agriculture sites. Specifically, the Ordinance lays out different requirements for community gardens, rooftop gardens, and urban farms.

If you have questions concerning zoning requirements for urban agriculture or any other questions related to urban agriculture, please contact Thorn & Associates at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Phase 1 Environmental Assessments

31 Jul

Often those completing a real estate transaction on a potentially environmentally contaminated property seek to limit liability under federal Superfund statute (CERCLA). A Phase I environmental site assessment is an initial step in determining whether an environmental risk exists. When reviewing a completed Phase I assessment be sure to ascertain whether the document contains the following 10 elements.
1. Result of environmental professional’s inquiry
2. Interviews with past and present owners, operators, and occupants
3. Reviews of historical sources of information
4. Searches for recorded environmental cleanup liens
5. Federal, State, Tribal, and local government record review
6. Visual inspections of the facility and of adjoining properties
7. Prospective landowner’s specialized knowledge or experience
8. Relationship of purchase price to uncontaminated property value
9. Commonly known or reasonably ascertainable information
10. Degree of obviousness and ability to detect property contamination

Each of these ten steps should be completed within one year, according to 40 C.F.R.  §312.21, which sets the standard for Phase I assessments. Upon completion of the Phase I assessment the environmental professional will offer recommendations as to whether further assessments, such as a Phase II environmental assessment, is necessary. A Phase II assessment involves taking samples of the soil, and if applicable, water that exists on the property in order to identify contamination.

If you have any questions regarding phase 1 environmental assessments please contact Thorn & Associates at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Illinois Water Systems Notice of Violations

24 Jul

Within the past year Illinois EPA has issued numerous violation notices to water systems for failing to check chlorine residue and fluoride levels daily. When issuing these violations, IEPA cites both 35 IAC 653.605 and 35 IAC 653.704, and their reference to daily monitoring reports, as justifying the requirements for daily sampling and testing of these chemicals. However, such a reading is clearly inconsistent with the language of the regulatory framework as a whole. In regards to Chorine residue sampling, 35 IAC 653.604 (b) clearly states that tests must be performed at “frequent and regular intervals” rather than daily. Additionally, 35 IAC 653.703 states that fluoride test must be conducted on a monthly, rather than daily, schedule.

If you are concerned about the additional and unnecessary costs of these sampling requirements, or if you have any additional questions regarding IEPA enforcement and Notice of Violation (NOV) letters, please contact Thorn & Associates at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

Brownfield redevelopment funds via Brownfields Redevelopment and Intermodal Promotion Act

8 Jul

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Brownfields Redevelopment and Intermodal Promotion Act, HB 2212, at the end of the 2013 Spring Session.  The statute creates the South Suburban Cook County Brownfield Redevelopment Zone in Posen, Dixmoor, Riverdale, Doloton, Markham, Harvey, Phoenix, South Holland, Hazel Crest, East Hazel Crest, Thornton, and Homewood.  The statute’s goal is to redevelop brownfields in the zone by leveraging the existing infrastructure around the CN Intermodal Terminal and the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal.  As a result, eligible projects are limited to those classified by the Urban Land Institute as: warehouse distribution, manufacturing (light or metal fabrication), or freight forwarding.  The statute further lists eligible secondary categories under each of those primary categories.

The statute creates the South Suburban Brownfields Advisory Council to oversee implementation of the statute.  The statute would create funds for the Council to distribute by  collecting the incremental individual income tax generated from employees in the zone, up to $3 million annually.  The Council could reimburse eligible developers for a variety of eligible activities, including: environmental studies and remediation; land acquisition and demolition; recruiting and training minority residents of the zone; and, upgrading the public infrastructure.

If you have questions about the advantages of redeveloping brownfields and the Brownfields Redevelopment and Intermodal Promotion Act, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

Benefit Corporations- Are they forever?

8 Jul

Recently, I have been part of several discussions of Benefit Corporations revolving around what benefit corporation status protects and how exactly it does it.  One of the common misconceptions is that becoming a Benefit Corporation cannot be reversed and, therefore, the corporation must always work for the general public benefit and, if applicable, any specific public benefits adopted.

In reality the Illinois Benefit Corporation Act, 805 ILCS 40, only makes the decision to cease being a benefit corporation or remove a specific general purpose more difficult by requiring a “minimum status vote”  for a corporation.  The statute requires such a decision to be made by a 2/3 supermajority vote of the shareholders.  In addition, the statute overrides any provisions in the by-laws that preempts certain classes of stockholders from voting.  As a result, all stockholders are entitle to vote on whether the benefit corporation will covert to a corporation or whether the corporation will cease to pursue a specific public benefit.

Needless to say, both of these requirements make it difficult, but not impossible to achieve.  Perhaps more importantly, these requirements will give pause to anyone who is considering buying into a Benefit Corporation with the ultimate goal of stripping out the environmental and social stewardship provisions of the corporation.

If you have questions about Benefit Corporations, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

Asbestos: Five myths

5 Jul

In many respects asbestos has been a victim of its success.  In the early 20th century, asbestos was considered a wonder substance that had several uses and was very inexpensive.  The most common uses were as an insulator and as ingredient in building materials to provide a degree of fire resistance.  In many parts of the US with older building stock (e.g., Chicago), you can still find numerous residential buildings with asbestos siding and asbestos mixed into the plaster.  Many older commercial buildings still have asbestos containing plaster.  Asbestos is also resistant to chemical damage and was used very frequently in chemistry lab benches (yes, even your high school lab) and other surfaces that were in regular contact with corrosive chemicals.  Asbestos is also very effective at absorbing sound.  Many older, metal kitchen sinks have asbestos coating on the underside, not to provide insulation, but to minimize the noise from water hitting the sink.  As a result, asbestos was ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until much later that efforts were taken to limit exposure to asbestos to minimize the risks of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers.  In part, this was because there is a 20-30 latency period between the exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma.  Another reason, at least for those not directly involved in the manufacturing of asbestos, was that it took years for asbestos containing materials to degrade sufficiently to release the asbestos fibers into the air and, it follows, for people to inhale these fibers.  Finally, information obtained during asbestos litigation established that many asbestos companies knew of the danger, but did not inform the public.

While almost everyone is familiar with asbestos, most people have misconceptions regarding asbestos.  Here are five of the most common:

1) Asbestos is banned.  Many asbestos containing products are still manufactured and legal to use.  US EPA banned asbestos products in 1989, but this rule was overturned in 1991.  Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, only the bans on corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial and specialty paper, and flooring felt as well as any new uses remain.  Under the Clean Air Act, spray applied asbestos is banned as well as asbestos for pipe insulation and block insulation on facility components (e.g., boilers), if the materials are either molded and friable or wet-applied (and friable after drying).  Under the Consumer Product Safety Act, asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds is banned.

2) Asbestos must be removed.  In reality, asbestos can be remain in place or even be added to a building, see 1 above.  In many instances, the owners of buildings are required to conduct an asbestos study to determine the presence of asbestos containing materials, monitor it over time, provide appropriate legal notices, and train individuals who may be exposed to asbestos.

3) Building owners do not need to label asbestos containing materials.  In truth, not every asbestos containing item must be labeled, otherwise you could imagine a ridiculous situation requiring several thousand asbestos containing floor tiles in a building needed to be labeled.  That being said, the building owner does need to provide notice and can often bee done fairly unobtrusively in an entrance area.

4) I do not need to train my custodial staff.  Many levels of asbestos training exist and while custodial staff may not need high level training, they may need awareness training because they come into contact with asbestos.  For example, they may come across a broken floor tile or ceiling tile that contains asbestos.  It is also worth noting that if your custodial staff undertakes more than simple custodial actions and engages in maintenance, they may well need additional training.

5) The contract for my new construction guarantees there was no asbestos used.  Upon closer inspection, most architectural contracts state that no asbestos containing materials were specified for the project.  That is not to say that they were not used, it simply means they were not required to be used.  Again, as pointed out above, asbestos is not banned.

If you have questions about asbestos, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

 

Benefit Corporations- What is “general public benefit” and “specific public benefit”?

3 Jul

Recently, I have been part of several discussions of Benefit Corporations revolving around what benefit corporation status protects and how exactly it does it.  In particular, one of the conversations used George Zimmer’s recent ouster as the basis of the discussion.  In order to provide some clarity, I will be posting a series of blog entries discussing the various requirements and provisions of the Illinois Benefit Corporation Act.  While many of these provisions are identical to Benefit Corporation Acts in other states, if you are researching Benefit Corporation Acts in other states please consult the statutes in your state (or intended state of incorporation) as there may be differences or, as is the case in most states, there is not actually a Benefit Corporation Act on the books yet.

The heart and soul of the Illinois Benefit Corporation Act (and other such statutes) are that Benefit Corporations must promote the ”general public benefit” and may promote one or more “specific public benefits.”  A ”general public benefit” is defined under the Illinois Benefit Corporation Act as “a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, assessed against a third-party standard, from the business and operations of a benefit corporation.”   The Illinois Benefit Corporation Act enumerates seven specific public benefits, including what amounts to a miscellaneous catch-all category: (more…)

New federal Underground Storage Tank (UST) rules in 2013

24 Jun

Over five years ago US EPA initiated a rule making to update its underground storage tank (USTs) regulations to reflect changes in technology since the rules were issued in the late 1980s and to reflect the requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) in Title XV, Subtitle B.  Many of the updates involve changes to employee training, secondary containment requirements for tanks and piping, adding operation and maintenance requirements, and adding new leak detection and prevention technological requirements, among other updates.  US EPA currently projects that it will publish the final rule in the Federal Register in December 2013.

If you have questions about UST regulations, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

Governor Quinn signs Illinois fracking law

18 Jun

On Monday, June 17, Illinois Governor Quinn signed House Bill 2615.  The bill reflects an effort by industry as well as several environmental groups to develop meaningful guidelines to regulate fracking in Illinois.  The participating environmental groups took the view that, if they failed to participate in the process, a bill would be passed that did not have sufficient safeguards in place or no bill would be passed and fracking would take place in Illinois without any restrictions whatsoever.  In fact, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has already received well-completion reports for fracking operations as companies look to tap the New Albany Shale formation in southern Illinois.

If you have questions about fracking in Illinois, contact us at 773-609-5320, info@thornenvironmentallaw.com, or through our web contact form.

Disclaimer: This article cannot, and does not, create any attorney/client or consultant/client relationship.

 

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