US businesses are subject to complex, overlapping environmental regulations related to 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.
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: An explosives manufacturer
WHERE: Cheyenne, Wyoming
WHAT: EPCRA release reporting violations
HOW MUCH: $20,352
A manufacturer of explosives paid $20,352 in penalties recently to resolve alleged violations of EPCRA hazardous substance release reporting requirements at an ammonium nitrate production facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
EPA alleges that the facility failed to notify their local emergency planning committee about two releases of anhydrous ammonia—an extremely hazardous substance with a reportable quantity (RQ) of 100 pounds. EPCRA requires facilities to immediately report the release of a hazardous substance or extremely hazardous substance when the RQ is exceeded [40 CFR 355, Subpart C].
WHO: A battery recycling plant
WHERE: City of Industry, California
WHAT: Improper hazardous waste management and containment
HOW MUCH: $1.15M in penalties and $1.15M in projects
A battery recycling plant settled with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) last month to resolve a suit alleging mismanagement of hazardous waste and other environmental violations. According to DTSC, the company failed to meet its responsibilities for detecting leaks, monitoring groundwater, and properly managing waste containing lead.
The facility will install new leak detection and groundwater monitoring equipment and pay $1.15 million in civil penalties. An additional $1.15 million will go toward supplemental projects—a public school health campaign and environmental training in the community.
WHO: A property owner
WHERE: Red Bluff, California
WHAT: Clean Water Act violation/endangering protected species
HOW MUCH: $33,000
US EPA alleges that a property owner failed to obtain a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permit before performing work that affected approximately ninety feet of the Sacramento River. Due to a lack of mitigation measures, fill material was discharged into the river.
A $33,000 penalty has been proposed to settle the alleged violations. The specific section of the river impacted is reportedly home to four endangered or threatened species. Changing the elevation of the river bottom or replacing a portion of the water with dry land violates protections placed on the river by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
According to the CWA, landowners and developers must obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before altering a “water of the United States” like the Sacramento River—even when the water runs through private property.
2023 Complete Environmental Regulations Training
Join a Lion instructor for the first Complete Environmental Regulations Webinar of the year on February 2—3. Get an overview of US EPA’s major air, water, and chemical programs—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to EPCRA, TSCA, Superfund, and more.
EH&S professionals who attend can identify the regulations that apply to their facility and locate key requirements to achieve compliance.
Prefer to train at your own pace? Try the interactive online course.