Industrial facilities in the United States are subject to complex, overlapping environmental regulations concerning air emissions, discharges to water, hazardous waste management and disposal, oil spills, chemical management, and more. Failure to comply with all applicable US EPA requirements can result in future liability and civil penalties as high as $100,000+ per day, per violation (and growing every year).
The EPA enforcement actions highlighted below provide insight into how and why the Agency assesses civil penalties for environmental noncompliance. All violations mentioned are alleged unless we indicate otherwise.
We withhold the names of organizations and individuals subject to enforcement to protect their privacy.
WHO: A metal recycler
WHERE: Portland, OR
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.55 million plus $1.7 million in site improvements
A metal recycler agreed to spend more than $1.7 million to prevent the release of ozone-depleting refrigerants
and non-exempt substitutes from refrigerant-containing items by improving its chemical recycling and disposal processes, according to the US Justice Department. This agreement would resolve allegations that the recycler failed to recover refrigerant from small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioners before disposal or to verify from the supplier that the refrigerant had been properly recovered prior to delivery to company facilities.
Under the settlement, the company must implement an EPA-approved Refrigerant Recovery Management Program (RRMP) at its 40 recycling locations. The recycler will also perform an environmental mitigation project involving the destruction of all R-12 refrigerants in scrapped appliances and automobiles that the company received. R-12 contains chlorofluorocarbons and has over 10,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
WHO: An electronics retailer
WHERE: Union City, CA
WHAT: FIFRA violations
HOW MUCH: $199,821
EPA recently announced a settlement with a national electronics retail chain for allegedly selling an unregistered and misbranded product making disinfectant claims in violation of federal law. During an inspection started on December 3, 2020, EPA found that a store had sold “Pure Mobile Sanitizing Tech Wipes” on 55 occasions beginning July 2020 through February 2021. This product was not registered as required under federal pesticide law
and had misleading information on its label that caused it to be misbranded.
The company has agreed to pay a $199,821 civil penalty and has revised its environmental management systems to mitigate the recurrence of such violations. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with the EPA. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with the EPA.
WHO: A residential builder
WHERE: Wasilla, AK
WHAT: Clean Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $29,500
A company that builds houses in Alaska allegedly failed to obtain permit coverage under Clean Water Act Section 404
prior to discharging dredged or fill material into waters of the United States (WOTUS). EPA claims that discharges into wetlands adjacent to Cottonwood Lake occurred while the developer was preparing lots for residential development. Discharges below the ordinary high-water mark of Wasilla Lake, and into wetlands adjacent to Wasilla Lake, also allegedly occurred while the company was designing a sloped backyard for dock access.
As part of a Proposed Consent Agreement and Final Order, the company would pay a civil penalty of $29,500. As part of the public notice, comments on the proposal may be submitted through May 6, 2022.
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