[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 66 (Friday, April 5, 2013)]
[Pages 20638-20640]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07988]



[EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0157; FRL--9798-2]

Petitions to Revise General Permit for U.S. Navy to Transport 
Vessels for the Purpose of Sinking in Ocean Waters

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of receipt of petitions and opportunity for public 


SUMMARY: This notice announces the receipt of and invites public 
comment on petitions submitted by the Basel Action Network, the Sierra 
Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, requesting that the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency take immediate action under the Marine 
Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act to protect human health and 
the environment from polychlorinated biphenyls that leach from ships 
used for Navy's SINKEX program. The U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency invites public comment on the aforementioned petitions for the 
purpose of determining how to respond to the requests for action 
related to the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before May 6, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by docket identification 
(ID) number EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0157, by one of the following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
on-line instructions for submitting comments.
    Mail: Send an original and three copies of your comments and 
enclosures (including references) to EPA Water Docket, U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code: 2822-IT, 1200 Pennsylvania 
Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-
    Hand delivery: EPA Water Docket, EPA Docket Center, EPA West 
Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 
20460, Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0157. Deliveries to the docket are 
accepted only during their normal hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. For access to 
docket materials, call: (202) 566-2426, to schedule an appointment.
    E-mail: [email protected]; Attention Docket No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-
0157. To ensure that EPA can properly respond to comments, commenters 
should cite the paragraph(s) or sections in the proposed permit to 
which each

[[Page 20639]]

comment refers. Commenters should use a separate paragraph for each 
issue discussed, and must submit any references cited in their 
comments. If you submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you 
include your name and other contact information in the body of your 
comment. Electronic files should avoid any form of encryption and 
should be free of any defects or viruses.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to docket ID number EPA-HQ-OW-
2013-0157. EPA's policy is that all comments received will be included 
in the docket without change and may be made available on-line at 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be 
Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose 
disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you 
consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or email. The Federal http://www.regulations.gov 
Web site is an ``anonymous access'' system, which means EPA will not 
know your identity or contact information unless you provide it in the 
body of your comment. If you send an email comment directly to EPA 
without going through http://www.regulations.gov, your email address 
will be automatically captured and included as part of the comment that 
is placed in the docket and made available on the Internet. If you 
submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you include your name 
and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any 
disk or CD-ROM you submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to 
technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA 
may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid 
the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of 
any defects or viruses.
    Docket: All documents in the EPA Water Docket are listed in the 
docket index. Although listed in the index, certain material, such as 
copyrighted material, is not placed on the Internet and will be 
publicly available only in hard copy form. Publicly available docket 
materials are available either in the electronic docket at http://www.regulations.gov, or, if only available in hard copy, at the EPA 
Water Docket in Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue (EPA West 
Building), NW., Washington, DC 20004. The hours of operation of this 
Docket Facility are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public Reading 
Room is (202) 566-1744, and the telephone number for the EPA Water 
Docket is (202) 566-2426.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura S. Johnson, Marine Pollution 
Control Branch (4504T), U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., 
Washington, DC 20460; (202) 566-1273; [email protected].


I. General Information

A. Interested Entities

                Category                 Examples of interested entities
Federal Government.....................  U.S. Navy, Maritime
                                          Administration, U.S. Army
                                          Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast
                                          Guard, National Oceanic and
                                          Atmospheric Administration.
State/Local/Tribal Government..........  Coastal communities.
Industry and General Public............  Shipyards, salvage companies,
                                          environmental remediation
                                          enterprises, commercial and
                                          recreational deep sea fishing
                                          interests, environmental
                                          interest groups.

    This table is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather provides a 
guide for readers regarding entities likely to be interested in this 
notice. This table lists the types of entities that EPA is now aware 
could potentially be interested in this notice. Other types of entities 
not listed in the table could also be interested.

B. What should I consider as I prepare my comments for EPA?

    Consider the following suggestions for preparing your comments:
    1. Identify the docket identification number in the subject line on 
the first page of your response. Also, it would be helpful to EPA if 
you provided the name, date, and Federal Register citation related to 
your comments.
    2. Explain your views as clearly as possible, including the subject 
matter about which you agree or disagree and why.
    3. Describe any assumptions that you used.
    4. Provide any technical information and/or data you used that 
support your views.
    5. If you estimate potential burden or costs, explain how you 
arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be 
    6. Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns.
    7. Offer alternatives.
    8. Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period deadline 

II. Background

    The Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) of 
1972, as amended, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, regulates the 
transportation and dumping of material into ocean waters. Under the 
MPRSA, no permit may be issued for ocean dumping where such dumping 
will unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine 
    In 1977, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated 
regulations for implementing the MPRSA permitting authority, 40 C.F.R. 
parts 220-229. 42 FR 2489 (Jan. 11, 1977). At that time, EPA issued a 
general permit to the U.S. Navy (Navy) for the Sink Exercise Program 
(SINKEX) to transport vessels from the United States, or from any other 
location, for the purpose of sinking such vessels in ocean waters in 
testing ordnance and providing related data. 40 C.F.R. 229.2. SINKEX 
involves the use of obsolete military vessels for target practice by 
military personnel, with the consequent sinking of the vessel. The Navy 
views these activities as essential for training personnel and testing 
military equipment. Vessels used for SINKEX are prepared according to 
the terms of the MPRSA general permit issued to the Navy.
    Under the MPRSA general permit, obsolete vessels used in SINKEX are 
required to be sunk at least 50 nautical miles from land and at depths 
of at least 1000 fathoms (6000 feet). The permit requires that, prior 
to sinking, appropriate measures be taken to remove to the maximum 
extent practicable all materials that may degrade the marine 
environment. This includes the emptying of all fuel tanks and fuel 
lines to the lowest point

[[Page 20640]]

practicable (followed by flushing with water and again emptying) and 
removing from the hulls other pollutants and all readily detachable 
materials capable of creating debris or contributing to chemical 
pollution. Thus, while the permit requires appropriate measures to 
remove to the maximum extent practicable all materials that may degrade 
the marine environment, the permit also recognizes that it may be 
impracticable to remove some materials.
    In a letter dated August 2, 1999 from EPA to the Navy, EPA provided 
its interpretation of the MPRSA general permit requirement to ``remove 
to the maximum extent practicable all materials that may degrade the 
marine environment'' as including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) 
containing materials, such as ship components containing PCBs. See 
Letter from Robert H. Wayland, Director of the Office of Wetlands, 
Oceans and Watersheds, to Elsie L. Munsell, Deputy Assistant Secretary 
of the Navy (Aug. 2, 1999). This letter states that:

    Before engaging in a SlNKEX, the Navy must conduct an inventory 
of each SINKEX vessel to ascertain the presence of PCBs. This 
inventory and list of items removed prior to sinking must be 
provided to EPA in the annual report * * *. Before sinking a SINKEX 
vessel, qualified personnel at a Navy or other approved facility 
--Remove all transformers containing 3 pounds or more of dielectric 
fluid and all capacitors containing 3 pounds or more of dielectric 
--Use all reasonable efforts to remove any capacitors and 
transformers containing less than 3 pounds of dielectric fluid from 
the vessel. Reasonable efforts include, but are not necessarily 
limited to, the removal of capacitors from electrical and control 
panels by using hand tools such as wire or bolt cutters or a screw 
--Drain and flush hydraulic equipment, heat transfer equipment, 
high/low pressure systems, cutting power machinery which uses 
cooling or cutting oil, and containers containing liquid PCBs at 
greater than or equal to 50 parts per million (ppm).

    In the August 2, 1999 letter from EPA to the Navy, EPA noted that 
``it is often practicable to remove non-liquid PCB-containing 
materials, including: air handling system gaskets; rubber; plastic; 
dried applied paint that is flaked-off; electrical cable insulation; 
and other non-liquid coatings and material, before sinking the 
vessel.'' To the extent that their removal is practicable, EPA 
explained that ``these non-liquid PCB-containing materials are required 
to be removed under the MPRSA permit. However, when such objects cannot 
be practicably removed or their removal threatens the structural 
integrity of the vessels so as to impede the SINKEX, the Navy may leave 
such items in place (e.g., felt materials that are bonded in bolted 
flanges or mounted under heavy equipment, certain paints, and 
adhesives).'' EPA further noted that ``objects may be considered not 
capable of practicable removal if equipment must be disassembled or 
removed for access to the objects, if the objects must be removed by 
heat, chemical stripping, scraping, abrasive blasting or similar 
process, or if removal would endanger human safety or health even when 
conducted with protective equipment and reasonable safety measures.'' 
Further, the August 2, 1999 letter states that the Navy shall report 
annually to EPA, the effort taken to clean each vessel prior to SINKEX 
and provide an estimate of the weight of PCBs present onboard at the 
time of sinking.

III. Today's Action

    EPA is providing the opportunity for public comment on the two 
petitions received that request EPA amend the MPRSA general permit as 
it relates to removal of PCBs from ships used in Navy's SINKEX program. 
The first petition, dated June 2011, and submitted by the Sierra Club 
and the Basel Action Network, requested that EPA:

Amend the MPRSA general permit for SINKEX to comply with the MPRSA 
by reflecting the latest scientific knowledge about the amount of 
PCBs disposed through the SINKEX program and about leaching of PCBs 
from sunken ships. At a minimum, the permit should be amended to 
    a. Materials containing PCBs to be removed from ships to the 
``maximum extent practicable'' with the best current techniques; and
    b. Prior to sinking, remediate ships to the London Convention's 
``trace contaminant'' requirement.

    The second petition, dated April 2012, and submitted by the Basel 
Action Network, Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, 
again requested that EPA amend the existing MPRSA permit for SINKEX:

    1. Effective immediately, requiring all PCB-contaminated 
materials in concentrations of 50 ppm or greater to be removed from 
SINKEX vessels prior to sinking;
    2. Requiring all PCB-contaminated materials in concentrations of 
less than 50 ppm to be removed from SINKEX vessels prior to sinking 
to the maximum extent practicable; and
    3. Requiring additional studies to determine whether PCB-
contaminated materials in concentrations of less than 50 ppm 
constitute ``trace'' contaminants, such that their dumping will not 
cause undesirable effects including the possibility of 
bioaccumulation. Such additional studies should include the most 
recent data on the toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation of 
PCBs and should include monitoring at multiple recent sink sites. 
Studies should also assess the releases of other potentially 
hazardous pollutants into the marine environment from the SINKEX 
program including heavy metals, asbestos and radioactive substances.

    Technical studies and data that accompanied the petitions are 
included in the docket for this proceeding. As noted above, EPA has not 
made the copyrighted material available on the Internet, but that 
material is publicly available in hard copy form via the Public Reading 
Room in EPA's Docket Center.

    Dated: March 28, 2013.
Nancy Stoner,
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water.
[FR Doc. 2013-07988 Filed 4-4-13; 8:45 am]