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 automotive parts retailer
WHERE: Statewide in CA
WHAT: RCRA, Title 22 violations
HOW MUCH: $3.94 million
California prosecutors reached an agreement with a statewide automotive retailer for alleged mishandling of hazardous waste. State investigators conducted unannounced inspections at store locations across the state from 2016 to 2019 and found evidence of improperly disposed of hazardous waste,
including solvents, automotive fluids, batteries, aerosols, and electronics.
According to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, inspections were made in Alameda, Santa Clara, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Orange counties. The company agreed to pay $350,000 to cover the cost of the investigation, $725,000 for compliance and training, and a $2.865 million civil penalty.
WHO: An automobile manufacturer
WHERE: Fremont, CA
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $275,000
An automotive manufacturer recently agreed to pay a civil penalty following alleged violations of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks between October 2016 and September 2019. According to EPA, the manufacturing plant failed to develop and implement a work practice plan to minimize hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)
emissions and correctly perform required monthly emissions calculations needed to demonstrate that the facility’s coating operations complied with Federal HAPs standards.
The company facility allegedly used several HAPs for its coating materials, including formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, and xylene. EPA’s list of HAPs contains over 180 chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects.
WHO: An automotive lubricants distributor
WHERE: Clinton, MO
WHAT: EPCRA violations
HOW MUCH: $130,243
EPA investigated an automotive lubricants distributor and found that the company manufactured, processed, or otherwise used quantities of toxic chemicals above thresholds that require annual Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting.
Specifically, the company allegedly failed to submit timely reports for certain glycol ethers in 2016, 2017, and 2018; diethanolamine in 2017; and toluene in 2017.
EPA investigated the facility, due in large part to its location within an economically disadvantaged community. EPA is strengthening enforcement in such communities to address disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects of industrial operations on vulnerable populations.
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