Emergency Grazing Approved for Parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota

Emergency Grazing Approved for Parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota

“We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on July 20 announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is authorizing the use of additional Conservation Reserve Program lands for emergency grazing and haying in and around portions of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota that are being affected by severe drought. USDA is adding the ability for farmers and ranchers in these areas to hay and graze CRP wetland and buffer practices.

“We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” Perdue said. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”

For these and also CRP practices previously announced, he is allowing this emergency action during and after the primary nesting season, where local drought conditions warrant in parts of the three states that have reached D2, or “severe,” drought level or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This includes counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wyoming. All emergency grazing must end Sept. 30, 2017, and emergency haying must end Aug. 31, 2017.

Perdue said epic dry conditions, as high as D4 in some areas, coupled with an intense heatwave have left pastures in poor or very poor condition, resulting in the need for ranchers to supplement grain and hay and, at worst, sell their herds. Landowners interested in emergency haying or grazing of CRP acres should contact the Farm Service Agency office and meet with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to obtain a modified conservation plan to include emergency haying/grazing. More information about the counties approved for emergency haying and grazing and the eligible CRP practices in this area is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/emergency-hayandgraze.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

OSHA orders Wells Fargo to reinstate SoCal whistleblower; pay $577K in back wages, damages, attorneys’ fees

July 21, 2017

OSHA orders Wells Fargo to reinstate SoCal whistleblower;
pay $577K in back wages, damages, attorneys’ fees

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate and pay $577,500 in back wages, damages and other fees to a former branch manager in Pomona who was terminated after she reported conduct by at least three “private bankers” working under her that she reasonably believed to be bank, wire and mail fraud.

Investigators with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Wells Fargo terminated the employee turned whistleblower in September 2011 because of concerns raised that the bank’s private bankers were opening customer accounts and enrolling customers in bank products without their knowledge, consent or appropriate disclosures. OSHA also found Wells Fargo fired the branch manager for reporting violations of one or more of the enumerated consumer financial laws implemented and enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The former branch manager’s reports to Wells Fargo Bank were determined to be protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, and were determined to be at least a contributing factor in her termination.

“No banking industry employee should fear retaliation for raising concerns about fraud and practices that violate consumer financial protections,” said Barbara Goto, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco. “The U.S. Department of Labor will fully and fairly enforce the whistleblower protection laws under its jurisdiction.”

In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing her personnel file, OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to fully compensate her for back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees – calculated at greater than $577,500. Wells Fargo also must post a notice informing employees of their whistleblower protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley and Consumer Financial Protection acts.

The order may be appealed to the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, but an appeal does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley and Consumer Financial Protection acts and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of occupational safety and health, airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad and maritime laws.  More information is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.  For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

# # #

Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

Media Contacts:

Leo F. Kay, 415-625-2630, kay.leo.f@dol.gov
Jose A. Carnevali, 415-625-2631, carnevali.jose@dol.gov

Release Number: 17-970-SAN

# # #


U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department’s Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Aluminum manufacturing company’s history of safety violations continues, putting employees at Camden County facility at risk of serious injuries

July 21, 2017

Aluminum manufacturing company’s history of safety violations continues,
putting employees at Camden County facility at risk of serious injuries

Aluminum Shapes’ 10th inspection since 2011 yields $1.9M in penalties

DELAIR, N.J. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has again cited a Camden County aluminum manufacturing company with a long history of noncompliance with OSHA standards – this time for 51 safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $1,922,895.

OSHA initiated its inspection of Delair-based Aluminum Shapes LLC on Jan. 23, 2017. Since 2011, the agency has inspected the facility eight times, cited the employer for 60 violations and assessed $516,753 in penalties.

During its 2017 inspection, OSHA inspectors learned that two employees were hospitalized as a result of separate workplace incidents. The first incident occurred when employees entered a tank to drain residual sludge containing dehydrated sodium hydroxide, aluminum oxide and decomposed metal. After reporting to their supervisors that they were experiencing chemical burns to their skin and attempting to wash off the chemicals, employees were directed to re-enter the tank, where they suffered further chemical injuries, resulting in the hospitalization of one employee.

The second incident occurred when a machine operator suffered a broken pelvis after being caught between the unguarded moving parts of a metal fabrication machine.

OSHA issued willful citations due the company’s failure to:

  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Conduct air monitoring prior to permit-required confined space entry.
  • Have an attendant during permit-required confined space entry.
  • Complete a required confined space entry permit to identify, evaluate and control hazards in the space.
  • Provide confined space training.
  • Utilize proper Lockout/Tagout (Control of Hazardous Energy) Procedures
  • Provide workers with locks and hardware to lock out equipment being serviced, maintained, or repaired.
  • Lack of specific procedures for the use of blocking devices
  • Utilize group lockout procedures.
  • Train workers in Lockout/Tagout

“Despite its lengthy OSHA history, Aluminum Shapes still does not comply with federal safety and health standards,” said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA’s Marlton Area Office. “These hazards leave workers vulnerable to the risk of serious injury and possible death.”

OSHA also cited the company for repeat violations, including fall hazards, lack of stair rails and machine guarding, and electrical hazards. The company also received serious citations for inadequate ladders, inappropriate respiratory and hearing protection, insufficient entry permits, and lack of machine guarding and hazardous chemical training. Other-than-serious violations included the company’s failure to record each injury on its injury log.

“Aluminum Shapes’ extensive list of violations reflects a workplace that does not prioritize worker safety and health,” says Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “The company can more effectively protect its workers by implementing a comprehensive safety and health management system.”

The citations can be viewed at: 

https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/newsroom/newsreleases/OSHA20170971.pdf

Aluminum Shapes manufactures aluminum parts used by several industries, including distribution, building and construction, transportation, electrical, automotive, machinery and equipment, as well as durable consumer goods. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the nearest OSHA Area Office.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful working conditions for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov

# # #

Media Contacts:

Leni Fortson, 215-861-5102, uddyback-fortson.lenore@dol.gov
Joanna Hawkins, 215-861-5101, hawkins.joanna@dol.gov

Release Number: 17-971-NEW (osha 17-108)


U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department’s Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Mutual Housing California Receives Grant for Green Building

Mutual Housing California Receives Grant for Green Building

NeighborWorks America recently announced a $403,000 grant to Mutual Housing California for green building, renovations, programs and operations.

NeighborWorks America recently gave Sacramento-based Mutual Housing California a $403,000 grant to continue building sustainable communities and renovating older developments with the latest green methods and technology. 

Half the grant—slightly more than $200,000—will help fund the:

–positive net-energy phase of Mutual Housing at Spring Lake, 32 apartments and townhomes in Woodland, Calif. for agricultural workers and their families, the initial phase of which was the first zero-net energy affordable housing development in the nation certified by the U.S. Department of Energy;

–energy-efficient, green renovations to Owendale Mutual Housing Community in Davis, Calif., and to Mutual Housing at Dixieanne and Victory Townhomes Mutual Housing Community in North Sacramento. 

The other half helps pay for programs that Mutual Housing residents, staff, and board members deem important.  

“NeighborWorks America is one of the few major funders in the community development and affordable housing sector that makes large grants to support work we decide is important to our community,” said Rachel Iskow, Mutual Housing chief executive officer.

“Grantors usually drive the work by funding issues and programs they identify as important. This type of funding is like gold to any nonprofit that cares about answering to its community stakeholders.”

The recent grant continues funding such programs as: 

–developing “green leaders” who spread the message of green living to their Mutual Housing neighbors and beyond,

–creating a “Culture of College” where every child in a Mutual Housing community sees college as a viable option, and

–advocating for policies that support affordable housing for diverse families.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

New Orleans Climate Plan Calls for Reducing Waste, Using More Clean Fuels

New Orleans Climate Plan Calls for Reducing Waste, Using More Clean Fuels

“In New Orleans, we face a triple threat: subsidence, coastal erosion, and sea level rise. This strategy will help us transition to a low-carbon economy that not only helps manage our climate risk, but also creates new businesses, jobs, and wealth,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu unveiled the city’s climate action strategy this month, a document that begins by warning that seas are rising and hot days are increasing, and then explains how the city plans to reduce its climate image. The “Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans” report is a strategic roadmap for the city, proposing 11 strategies and 25 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030.

Landrieu signed an executive order at the announcement to adopt Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans as guiding policy and to commit to the principles and goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our coastal communities, nation, and world,” he said. “In New Orleans, we face a triple threat: subsidence, coastal erosion, and sea level rise. If unchecked, New Orleans, like many coastal cities, will be forced to retreat. This strategy will help us transition to a low-carbon economy that not only helps manage our climate risk, but also creates new businesses, jobs, and wealth.”

The plan builds on actions the city already has taken, according to the mayor, including in July 2015, when Landrieu joined a group of mayors, local governors, and representatives of the United Nations for a two-day summit at the Vatican to discuss solutions to global issues including climate change. He also signed the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy.

The development of the document was called for in the city’s resilience strategy, “Resilient New Orleans.”

The document is focused on four goals to lower the city’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030:

  • Modernizing its energy use by increasing the use of low-carbon, clean fuels, making its energy savings a sustainable resource; and increasing the resilience of its energy infrastructure
  • Improving its transportation choices by transforming the city’s infrastructure to reduce car dependence, encouraging active transportation, and increasing fuel efficiency
  • Reducing waste via development of recycling and composting initiatives and by generating value from the city’s waste
  • Creating a culture of awareness and action by growing the low-carbon economy, enabling data-driven decision making, and connecting the city’s culture to climate action

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

USB or Bluetooth Temperature Loggers in the Field – Which Are Right for You?

USB or Bluetooth Temperature Loggers in the Field – Which Are Right for You?

For outdoor field monitoring, data access can be a critical issue—especially in hard-to-reach or limited-access locations.

Accurate outdoor data is critical to field research aimed at understanding and protecting the environment, from how natural ecosystems are responding to changing conditions to the impacts of human interactions. Today, there are a range of solutions on the market for systematically collecting vital temperature and relative humidity (RH) data. These include options for how the data loggers communicate for setup and data offload using technologies such as Universal Serial Bus (USB) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However, with more options, it can be difficult to determine the best approach for a given project. Following are factors researchers should consider when choosing between BLE and USB data loggers.

How USB and BLE Data Loggers Work
Field temp/RH data loggers are vital tools for monitoring environments, offering the capacity to automatically collect data on a continuous 24/7 basis and provide a comprehensive picture of changing conditions. The two primary types of field temp/RH data loggers available are traditional USB options and newer models utilizing Bluetooth technology. 

With USB, users physically connect the data logger to the USB port of a computer or handheld device (shuttle) to retrieve and download data. USB loggers may have a built-in USB connection or use optical communication via a base station or data shuttle, which then plugs into a computer’s USB port. Because loggers with optical communication don’t have electrical connections, they can provide better reliability outdoors, but they need an optical data shuttle to offload data if users want to avoid taking a laptop into the field.

By contrast, data loggers with Bluetooth communication can wirelessly transfer data to a mobile device. Combined with a well-written application, Bluetooth loggers harness the power and connectivity offered by today’s smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Loggers using older Bluetooth versions require “pairing” with the mobile devices, which may not be practical for some locations. Data loggers with newer Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, also known as Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth 4.0, can transfer data wirelessly without pairing. Instead, researchers simply use an app on their mobile devices to connect to any logger within range. BLE technology is well-suited to field data loggers, as it uses less battery power and can enable significant time savings when deploying loggers or retrieving data.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Seattle Wastewater Plant Flood Report Calls for Emergency Training

Seattle Wastewater Plant Flood Report Calls for Emergency Training

Flooding inside the West Point sewage treatment plant in February caused $57 million in damage and 235 million gallons of untreated wastewater to be dumped from an emergency outfall near Seattle’s Discovery Park.

A contractor’s report on the flooding that damaged Seattle’s West Point sewage treatment plant in February 2017 found that better emergency training is needed for the staffers and the plant does not have enough capacity to handle emergency events. The flooding caused $57 million in damage and 235 million gallons of untreated wastewater to be dumped from an emergency outfall near Seattle’s Discovery Park.

The contractor, AECOM, was hired to investigate the flood. Seattle Times reporters Lynda V. Mapes and Christine Willmsen wrote that the report found the a new $40 million alarm system installed only days before the flood does not adequately prioritize what workers need to do in an emergency. It said the shift supervisor was faced with more than 2,100 alarms in less than an hour during the crisis, and it wasn’t clear which ones were critical and which ones were not.

“If the disaster had occurred during the day, wastewater managers said, people would have been seriously injured or killed. Managers said they were lucky no one died. One employee injured her leg during a harrowing escape as a torrent of water filled rooms, walkways and stairwells,” they reported, adding that the Washington Department of Ecology will reviews the report before determining any fines for the plant’s “violating its wastewater permit for months while it dumped 30 million gallons of raw sewage and hundreds of tons of partially treated solids, stated the ecology communications manager, Jessica Payne.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Missouri Issues Final Permit Modification for Bannister Federal Complex

Missouri Issues Final Permit Modification for Bannister Federal Complex

The permit includes an approved contingent remedy for 225 acres of the Kansas City site that are currently in the final remedy stage for soil and groundwater contamination.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) has issued a final contingent hazardous waste permit modification for the Bannister Federal Complex, a site in Kansas City that in the past was used as warehouse space and to manufacture electrical, mechanical, plastic and other non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. It is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration and the General Services Administration, which have moved their operations to new locations and have selected a private developer to explore redeveloping 225 acres of it.

The permit includes an approved contingent remedy for that acreage, which is currently in the final remedy stage for soil and groundwater contamination and includes using existing buildings to prevent contact with the contamination. According to MoDNR, during future property redevelopment, those buildings are scheduled to be demolished and the ground surface regraded. “In anticipation of these activities, the department, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, proposed changes to the approved final remedy to ensure continued protection of human health and the environment during the demolition and redevelopment of the site,” its announcement said.

DOE/NNSA and GSA are conducting the long-term monitoring and corrective action investigation and remediation activities under a department-issued Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Facility Part I Permit and EPA-issued Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Part II Permit. The Part I Permit is the regulatory framework for implementation and long-term operation and maintenance of the approved final remedy. The department made proposed changes to the Part I Permit to implement the proposed changes to the final remedy and made the proposed changes available for public review and comment on May 5, 2017. Following review and response to all public comments, the department approved the proposed changes to the final remedy and Part I Permit and issued a final contingent Part I Permit modification. These changes are contingent, in that the approved changes will only become effective only if the property is transferred to the private developer at a later date. Until then, the existing approved final remedy and Part I Permit remain in effect.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

OSHA investigation finds safety failures led to the death of 3 workers who entered a manhole containing lethal gases

July 18, 2017

OSHA investigation finds safety failures led to the death of 3 workers
who entered a manhole containing lethal gases
Utility contractor cited for 10 serious violations

KEY LARGO, Fla. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a South Florida utility company and related contracting company after the agency’s investigation into the deaths of three workers who succumbed to toxic gases in a manhole on Jan. 16, 2017.

Elway Gray, a 34-year-old pipe layer, entered the manhole – a confined space – and quickly became unresponsive. Louis O’Keefe, a 49-year-old laborer, entered the hole and attempted to rescue Gray. After O’Keefe also became unresponsive, Robert Wilson, a 24-year-old equipment operator, followed to help his fallen coworkers. All three men died. Post-incident atmospheric testing in the manhole revealed lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Two other employees and a volunteer firefighter were also exposed to the toxic gases in the manhole during rescue attempts but survived.

OSHA investigators cited Douglas N. Higgins, Inc. and its related contracting company, McKenna Contracting, LLC with 10 serious violations totaling $119,507, in penalties. The incident-related serious violations are for failing to purge or ventilate the confined space before entry, exposing the workers to an asphyxiation hazard, and not providing necessary rescue and emergency equipment for employees that were overcome inside a permit-required confined space.

In addition, OSHA issued serious citations to Higgins and McKenna Contracting for failing to:

  • Develop and implement a written hazard communication program for a worksite in which employees were exposed to dangerous chemicals and gases.
  • Use a calibrated direct-reading device to test for toxic gases, creating an asphyxiation hazard.
  • Create and document the confined space entry permit.
  • Provide training to employees in the safe performance of their assigned duties in permit-required confined spaces.
  • Provide a guardrail around the manhole opening, exposing employees to a fall hazard.

“The hazards of working in manholes are well established, but there are ways to make it safe,” said Condell Eastmond, the OSHA area director in Fort Lauderdale. “Three employees needlessly lost their lives and others were injured due to their employer’s failure to follow safe work practices.”

The citations for D.N. Higgins can be viewed at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/newsroom/newsreleases/OSHA20171001.pdf

Founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, D.N. Higgins expanded in 1989 with the opening of its Naples office. The company specializes in underground installations of mechanical systems, pump stations, storm water drainage systems and municipal infrastructure. McKenna Contracting, LLC was formed in 2012 and is a related company that provides contract administration and labor to Higgins’ jobsites in Florida.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Fort Lauderdale Area Office at 954-424-0242.

# # #

Media Contacts:

Eric R. Lucero, 678-237-0630, lucero.eric.r@dol.gov
Michael D’Aquino, 678-237-0630, daquino.michael@dol.gov

Release Number: 17-1001-ATL (104)


U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department’s Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Idaho DEQ Seeks Comments on West Silver Valley Emissions Inventory

Idaho DEQ Seeks Comments on West Silver Valley Emissions Inventory

The state agency began developing a State Implementation Plan in 2015. But based on certified air quality monitoring for 2014-2016, the area has attained national air quality standards, which qualifies it for a clean data determination, according to DEQ.

The Idaho Department of Environment Quality is asking for public comments by Aug. 11 on a base-year emissions inventory for the West Silver Valley Nonattainment Area. The inventory will be submitted to U.S. EPA for approval; EPA in 2015 designated the West Silver Valley in northern Idaho as a “moderate nonattainment area” for the 2012 annual PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard because the most recent fine particle air pollution data gathered there had not met the national standard. The nonattainment area includes the areas in and around the Panhandle towns of Pinehurst, Smelterville, Kellogg, and Wardner, an area that was determined to include emission sources (including use of wood stoves for home heating) that contribute to violations of the fine particle standard.

The state was to work with the local communities to develop a plan to reduce emissions in the West Silver Valley, then submit a plan to EPA, and the area was given until December 2021 to demonstrate compliance with the fine particle air quality standard.

In response to the nonattainment designation, DEQ began developing a State Implementation Plan in 2015. “However, based on certified air quality monitoring for 2014-2016, the area has attained national air quality standards, which qualifies it for a clean data determination,” the agency reported. “With this determination, most State Implementation Plan requirements are suspended as long as the area continues to attain air quality standards, but a base-year emissions inventory is still required.”

A public hearing on the inventory will be held Aug. 11 at 5:30 p.m. PDT at Pinehurst City Hall.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail