Week of June 3, 2013

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Illinois
Michigan
New York
Wisconsin
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National

Wal-Mart pleads guilty to environmental crimes and will pay more than $81 million
Admits violating criminal and civil laws to protect water quality and to ensure proper handling of hazardous wastes
WASHINGTON – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pleaded guilty today in cases filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores across the United States. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company also pleaded guilty today in Kansas City, Mo., to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers at its stores across the country.

As a result of the three criminal cases brought by the Justice Department, as well as a related civil case filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wal-Mart will pay approximately $81.6 million for its unlawful conduct. Coupled with previous actions brought by the states of California and Missouri for the same conduct, Wal-Mart will pay a combined total of more than $110 million to resolve cases alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, from a date unknown until January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level – including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system – or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States.

“By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “Today, Wal-Mart acknowledged responsibility for violations of federal laws and will pay significant fines and penalties, which will, in part, fund important environmental projects in the communities impacted by the violations and help prevent future harm to the environment.”

"Federal laws that address the proper handling, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes exist to safeguard our environment and protect the public from harm,” said André Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. “Retailers like Wal-Mart that generate hazardous waste have a duty to legally and safely dispose of that hazardous waste, and dumping it down the sink was neither legal nor safe. The case against Wal-Mart is designed to ensure compliance with our nation’s environmental laws now and in the future.”

“As one of the largest retailers in the United States, Wal-Mart is responsible not only for the stock on its shelves, but also for the significant amount of hazardous materials that result from damaged products returned by customers,” said Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California. “The crimes in these cases stem from Wal-Mart's failure to comply with the regulations designed to ensure the proper handling, storage, and disposal of those hazardous materials and waste. With its guilty plea today, Wal-Mart is in a position to be an industry leader by ensuring that not only Wal-Mart, but all retail stores properly handle their waste.”

 “This tough financial penalty holds Wal-Mart accountable for its reckless and illegal business practices that threatened both the public and the environment,” said Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “Truckloads of hazardous products, including more than 2 million pounds of pesticides, were improperly handled under Wal-Mart’s contract. Today’s criminal fine should send a message to companies of all sizes that they will be held accountable to follow federal environmental laws. Additionally, Wal-Mart’s community service payment will fund important environmental projects in Missouri to help prevent such abuses in the future.”

“The FBI holds all companies, regardless of size, to the same standards,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the San Francisco Field Office.  “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure there is a level playing field for all businesses and that everyone follows the rules.”

“Today Wal-Mart is taking responsibility for violating laws that protect

people from hazardous wastes and chemicals,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  “Walmart is committing to safe handling of hazardous wastes at all of its facilities nationwide, and action that will benefit communities across the country.”  

Wal-Mart owns more than 4,000 stores nationwide that sell thousands of products which are flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic or otherwise hazardous under federal law. The products that contain hazardous materials include pesticides, solvents, detergents, paints, aerosols and cleaners. Once discarded, these products are considered hazardous waste under federal law.

 

Wal-Mart pleaded guilty this morning in San Francisco to six misdemeanor counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. The six criminal charges were filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and San Francisco (each office filed three charges), and the two cases were consolidated in the Northern District of California, where the guilty pleas were formally entered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. As part of a plea agreement filed in California, Wal-Mart was sentenced to pay a $40 million criminal fine and an additional $20 million that will fund various community service projects, including opening a $6 million Retail Compliance Assistance Center that will help retail stores across the nation learn how to properly handle hazardous waste.

In the third criminal case resolved today, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty in the Western District of Missouri to violating FIFRA. According to a plea agreement filed in Kansas City, beginning in 2006, Wal-Mart began sending certain damaged household products, including regulated solid and liquid pesticides, from its six return centers to Greenleaf LLC, a recycling facility located in Neosho, Mo., where the products were processed for reuse and resale. Because Wal-Mart employees failed to provide adequate oversight of the pesticides sent to Greenleaf, regulated pesticides were mixed together and offered for sale to customers without the required registration, ingredients, or use information, which constitutes a violation of FIFRA.  Between July 2006 and February 2008, Wal-Mart trucked more than 2 million pounds of regulated pesticides and additional household products from its various return centers to Greenleaf. In November 2008, Greenleaf was also convicted of a FIFRA violation and paid a criminal penalty of $200,000 in 2009.       

 

Pursuant to the plea agreement filed in Missouri and accepted today by U.S. District Judge John T. Maughmer, Wal-Mart agreed to pay a criminal fine of $11 million and to pay another $3 million to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which will go to that agency’s Hazardous Waste Program and will be used to fund further inspections and education on pesticide regulations for regulators, the regulated community and the public. In addition, Wal-Mart has already spent more than $3.4 million to properly remove and dispose of all hazardous material from Greenleaf’s facility.

In conjunction with today’s guilty pleas in the three criminal cases, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay a $7.628 million civil penalty that will resolve civil violations of FIFRA and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In addition to the civil penalties, Wal-Mart is required to implement a comprehensive, nationwide environmental compliance agreement to manage hazardous waste generated at its stores.  The agreement includes requirements to ensure adequate environmental personnel and training at all levels of the company, proper identification and management of hazardous wastes, and the development and implementation of Environmental Management Systems at its stores and return centers. Compliance with this agreement is a condition of probation imposed in the criminal cases.

The criminal cases announced today are a result of investigations conducted by the FBI and the EPA, which received substantial assistance from the California Department of Substance and Toxics Control, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

In Missouri, the case was prosecuted by Deputy U.S. Attorney Gene Porter and ENRD Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Whitfield of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. In California, the cases were prosecuted in Los Angeles by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns and in San Francisco by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Geis.

More information about the case: URL www.epa.gov/enforcement/waste/cases/walmart.html


 

Regional

Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for May 31

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Temperatures through the Memorial Day weekend were below seasonal averages and have warmed up this week. Scattered showers and thunder storms are forecasted over the next few days with some areas expected to receive over two inches of rain. Temperatures are expected to drop slightly by the end of the weekend with partly sunny conditions forecasted for Monday and Tuesday. The significant amount of precipitation falling during the last week of May will likely give the Great Lakes basin above average precipitation for the month.

LAKE LEVEL CONDITIONS

The water level of Lake Superior is 4 inches above its level of a year ago, while Lake Michigan-Huron is 2 inches lower than at this time last year. Lakes St. Clair and Erie are 4 and 5 inches, respectively, lower than their levels of a year ago while Lake Ontario is 2 inches above last year’s level. Over the next month, Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are forecasted to rise 3 and 2 inches, respectively. The water levels of lakes St. Clair, Erie and Ontario are projected to rise 2, 1, and 3 inches, respectively, in the next thirty days.

FORECASTED MONTHLY OUTFLOWS/CHANNEL CONDITIONS

Lake Superior’s outflow through the St. Marys River is projected to be below average for the month of May. Lake Huron’s outflow into the St. Clair River and the outflow from Lake St. Clair into the Detroit River are also expected to be below average throughout the month of May. Lake

Erie’s outflow through the Niagara River is predicted to be below average and the outflow of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River is expected to be below average in May.

ALERTS

Official records are based on monthly average water levels and not daily water levels. Lake Michigan-Huron is near chart datum. Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels. Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.

 

 

Superior

Mich-Huron

St. Clair

Erie

Ontario

Level for May 31

601.15

577.46

573.79

571.26

245.83

Datum, in ft

601.10

577.50

572.30

569.20

243.30

Diff in inches

+1

0

+18

+25

+30

Diff last month

+9

+5

+3

0

+3

Diff from last yr

+4

-2

-4

-5

+2

 


 

Illinois

DNR to Host Open Houses on Deer Management

Questions and comments from the public are encouraged

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has scheduled a series of open houses for the public to ask questions and receive information about Illinois' deer herd this June. 

 

IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources staff will be on hand at each meeting to discuss the deer management program, hunting regulations, and surveillance/management of chronic wasting disease.

 

The public is invited to attend the open houses from 4 – 7 p.m. at the following locations and dates:

 

• June 3 – Rockford Public Library (East Branch), 6685 East State St., Rockford, IL

• June 4 – Hickory Hills Discovery Center (Twinleaf West room), St. Charles Park District, 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles, IL

• June 5 – Champaign County Farm Bureau Auditorium, 801 Country Fair Drive, Champaign, IL

• June 6 – John A. Logan College (TDR room), 700 Logan Drive, Carterville, IL

• June 11 – PASA Park, #1 Pasa Park, Barry, IL (off I-72 west of Pittsfield)

 

In addition to the open houses, the IDNR will have a survey for attendees at the open houses and available online.  IDNR will post all materials presented at the meetings on the Department’s website and provide opportunities for hunters, landowners, and other members of the public to review them and provide comments.

 

More information and details will be available at the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov as it becomes available.

 


 

Michigan

MI - Lake St. Clair Tops Nation's Bass Waters

Bassmaster Magazine recently named Lake St. Clair the top bass fishing location in the nation. Catch-and-keep season for largemouth and smallmouth bass on most waters, including the Great Lakes, starts May

25 and stretches all the way through Dec. 31. If you plan to fish on Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River or the Detroit River, the season opens for those waters on June 15. The minimum size limit for both largemouth and smallmouth bass is 14 inches.


 

New York

Cuomo to NY sheriffs: keep quiet about gun law

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo invited representatives of the New York State Sheriff’s Association to meet with him and discuss issues with the recently passed “SAFE Act.”  At least that’s what the sheriffs thought the meeting would be about.

 

But instead, according to this article in the Albany Times Union, Cuomo told the sheriffs to cease and desist expressing their wide-ranging comments in opposition to many of the law’s provisions.  “The governor was of the opinion that the sheriffs around the state should not be interjecting their personal opinions in reference to the law,” according to one attendee.

 

News flash to the governor:  That cat is out of the bag, since both the Sheriff’s Association and several individual sheriffs have joined the litigation against the new law.  But the governor isn’t out of options yet.  No meeting attendee was willing to confirm this, but at least one source says that Cuomo threatened to use an obscure power of the governor’s office to remove sheriffs from office.

 

New York is not the only state where sheriffs are speaking out against new gun laws.  In Colorado, a majority of state sheriffs have joined litigation against new gun laws filed earlier this week.  NSSF is also a

party to the Colorado lawsuit, and proud to support the sheriffs for pointing out obvious problems with the new law, as noted in this article, which quotes their filing as follows:

 

“The Sheriffs have limited resources and limited public funds to spend on investigations . . . They cannot expend those resources to conduct investigations that would be necessary to monitor compliance with the new magazine restrictions. No documentation has ever been required for the retail or private purchase of magazines, making it a practical impossibility for the Sheriffs to determine whether one of the many magazines already in existence was obtained after the effective date.”

 

Of course, we told them that before the law was passed, but Colorado legislators weren’t listening then, any more than Cuomo is willing to hear criticism of his trademark law now.  And we recall that Colorado legislators protested comments by state sheriffs in opposition when their new law was under debate.

 

It is rapidly becoming a hallmark of anti-gun politicians to view the First Amendment with equal disdain as the Second Amendment.  Both are “inconvenient truths” in their zeal to enact new restrictions on our rights and our industry.


 

Wisconsin

Yellowstone shooting range to close June 5 for upgrades

The public shooting range at the Yellowstone Wildlife Area on County Highway F near Fayette in Lafayette County will be closed beginning June 5 for range safety improvements and addition of features that will provide accessible parking and shooting.

 

Backstops will be improved and berms constructed down the sides of all ranges for added safety. Plans also call for improving drainage, constructing a roof over all firing lines and installing new shooting benches.

 

MZ Construction, Inc., of Linden Wisconsin will do the work with an estimated completion date of August 1, 2013. The planned project cost of $210,000 will be funded with $185,000 from the federal Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act fund and a $25,000 grant from the National Rifle Association Range Grant Program

 

Enacted in 1937, Pittman-Robertson collects an excise tax on purchases

of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. Money is sent back to individual states and a portion of the dollars must be used to educate and train hunters through hunter safety classes and shooting ranges.

 

“This will be a great and welcome upgrade to the Yellowstone range,” said Bruce Folley, wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. “Yellowstone is the only free shooting range found on public land for many miles around. It’s popular and has been showing its age for some time now. Currently, it does not offer accessible parking or shooting. Closure during the summer months will be inconvenient for some but it will be open in time for the fall hunting seasons and I think folks will really like the improvements.”

 

Project specifications call for recovering as much lead as possible from the existing backstops for recycling. For shooting options during the construction phase the National Shooting Sports Foundation maintains a list of shooting ranges at wheretoshoot.org.


 

Other Breaking News Items

(Click on title or URL to read full article)

 

Gov. Quinn open to Great Lakes-Mississippi split
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Saturday that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems is the "ultimate solution" to prevent voracious Asian carp from overrunning the lakes.

 

International Joint Commission issues Great Lakes report card
Lana Pollack, the US chair of the IJC - U.S. delegation, discusses the past, present and future of cleaning up the Great Lakes.

Fishery expert urges diversity
What would happen to Lake Michigan if fewer salmon (a non-native species) were stocked in favor of more native species?

 

 

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the GLSFC, its officers or staff. 

Reproduction of any material by paid-up members of the GLSFC is encouraged but appropriate credit must be given. 

Reproduction by others without written permission is prohibited.

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