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: A paper and pulp factory
WHERE: Catawba, South Carolina
WHAT: An imminent and substantial endangerment finding
HOW MUCH: $1.1 million
A South Carolina paper and pulp factory faces $1.1 million in civil penalties under a consent decree approved by the US District Court for South Carolina.
The factory was allegedly releasing elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to the air, causing an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or welfare, or the environment. Section 303 of the Clean Air Act authorizes US EPA to file suit on behalf of the United States to immediately stop emission of air pollutants that cause or contribute to “imminent and substantial endangerment.”
Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas with a rotten-egg smell and can cause eye, nose, or throat irritation upon exposure. If exposed to high concentrations, people may experience respiratory distress or arrest. In addition to the civil penalty, the company must monitor emissions for three years and comply with specific operational requirements.
WHO: Four solar farm construction sites
WHERE: Alabama, Idaho, and Illinois
WHAT: Stormwater mismanagement and permit violations
HOW MUCH: $1.34 million
The companies in control of construction sites for four solar farms has agreed to pay a combined $1.34 million in civil penalties for alleged Clean Water Act violations and ensure their remaining construction will be in compliance with stormwater permits.
These companies used a common construction contractor for the development of their solar farms. EPA alleges that stormwater controls at each location were inadequate and that stormwater issues were not reported or addressed properly. According to US EPA, inadequate stormwater controls at solar farm construction sites can lead to major runoff of sediment into waterways which can negatively impact aquatic life and ecosystems, as well as harm drinking water treatment systems.
WHO: A technology manufacturer
WHERE: Salem, Massachusetts
WHAT: Clean Air Act violation
HOW MUCH: $46,968
A technology manufacturing facility in Salem, Massachusetts has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $46,968 to settle alleged violations of the chemical accident prevention requirements of the Clean Air Act (i.e., Risk Management Planning or RMP).
US EPA alleges that the facility did not formally identify hazards that may result from chemical releases using appropriate hazard assessment techniques. The facility stores and uses several "extremely hazardous substances," including anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen gas, hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid, and potassium and copper cyanides. The company has taken steps to improve safety at the facility.
Final Complete EPA Regulations Webinar for 2022
Join a Lion instructor for the final Complete Environmental Regulations Webinar of the year on December 5—6. 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.
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