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: An oil refinery
WHERE: El Dorado, KS
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $1.6 million
After an inspection in 2014, EPA identified violations in evaluating hazards and compiling safety information at a Kansas refinery. Later in 2017, a fire erupted at the facility after a heater tube ruptured,
resulting in the death of a worker. Following the incident, EPA investigators found that the facility allegedly failed to design and maintain a safe facility and inspect and replace heater tubes.
The company’s agreement to pay $1.6 million in civil penalties resolves these alleged violations. Catastrophic accidents at regulated facilities—historically about 150 each year—can result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear need for effective safety and compliance efforts at these facilities.
WHO: A military facility
WHERE: Shemya Island, AK
WHAT: RCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $206,811
According to EPA, a military facility in Alaska allegedly stored hazardous wastes at an air station without a permit and failed to properly label and inspect waste containers
and an above-ground storage tank in which the hazardous wastes were stored. These improperly stored wastes include more than a ton of hazardous paints, hydrochloric acid, methyl ethyl ketone, and oxidizers and more than 25 tons of hazardous waste fuel and oil. EPA found that these wastes were stored years longer than permitted by RCRA.
In addition to paying the $206,811 penalty, the facility has also agreed to ship off site and properly dispose of approximately 55,000 pounds of hazardous waste by the end of June 2022, improve its hazardous waste and universal waste management practices, and appropriately close the area where hazardous waste was improperly stored.
WHO: A chemical storage company
WHERE: West Haven, CT
WHAT: Clean Air Act and EPCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $109,635
A company that provides chemical storage and warehousing services recently reached a settlement for allegedly failing to conduct a process hazard review for warehouse operations and to design and maintain a safe facility under Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause
requirements. The company also allegedly failed to submit complete, timely EPCRA Section 311 and 312 Chemical Inventory (Tier II) reports with State and local emergency planning and response authorities.
The facility is located in an area of potential environmental justice concerns, due to the presence of relatively substantial environmental burdens and/or vulnerable populations. EPA was also concerned about flammable substances housed at the facility because of its close proximity to businesses, homes, and a commuter rail station.
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