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 gas station chain
WHERE: 15 locations in PR
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $125,000 plus $600,000 in upgrades
In its complaint, EPA alleged that a gas station chain violated the Federal hazardous waste regulations and the Puerto Rico Underground Storage Tank Control
requirements by failing to use proper equipment for underground storage tanks, conduct required operation and maintenance, and report and investigate suspected releases. These alleged violations span throughout 15 of the company’s locations.
As part of the settlement, the company agreed leak detection systems in at least 43 gas stations; implement or upgrade automatic tank gauging release detection; and install a centralized monitoring system, which will provide instant notifications in the event of a potential or actual leak. This new monitoring system is valued at approximately $600,000.
WHO: A chemical manufacturer
WHERE: Great Bend, KS
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $144,924
A facility that manufactures cleaning products will pay a six-figure civil penalty to resolve alleged Risk Management Plan
violations related to its handling and storage of isobutane and propane. Following a 2019 inspection, EPA determined that the company failed to comply with several key release prevention requirements, including failure to develop adequate standard operating procedures, failure to establish procedures for ensuring appropriate inspections of piping, and failure to conduct certain safety reviews.
In response to EPA’s findings, the company took the necessary steps to return the facility to compliance. The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule regulations require facilities that use regulated toxic and/or flammable substances to develop a Risk Management Plan, which identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident; identifies steps a facility is taking to prevent an accident; and spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur.
WHO: A municipal drinking and wastewater system
WHERE: Jersey City, NJ
WHAT: Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.1 billion in system repairs
A New Jersey water provider announced a new agreement with US EPA and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to make significant improvements to a city drinking water and sewage system as part of a consent decree that began in 2011. These improvements are expected to drastically reduce the amount of pollution being discharged into the Hackensack River, Hudson River, and Newark Bay, benefiting communities of color facing environmental justice challenges.
According to the original consent decree, the municipal water system allegedly failed to properly operate and maintain its combined sewer system, which led to repeated releases of untreated sewage into the Hackensack River, Hudson River, Newark Bay, and Penhorn Creek. The system will now replace over 12,000 lead drinking water pipes, expand system capacity, and complete a comprehensive assessment of the condition of its sewer system.
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