EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 3/14

Posted on 3/14/2022 by Lauren Scott

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: Three affiliated oil and petrochemical facilities
WHERE: Cedar Bayou, Port Arthur, and Sweeney, TX
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $3.4 million plus $118 million in site upgrades

A major oil and petrochemical company reached a settlement over alleged Clean Air Act violations at three of its facilities in Texas. According to the US Justice Department, the company failed to properly operate and monitor its industrial flares responsible for burning off volatile organic compounds, greenhouse gases, and other harmful pollutants.

The company agreed to make sweeping changes at its facilities, in addition to paying a civil penalty. These new controls are estimated to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and ethane, by over 75,000 tons per year.

WHO: A public utility company
WHERE: Porter County, IN
WHAT: CERCLA violations
HOW MUCH: $11.8 million in site remediations

EPA issued a consent decree stating that a public utility company is liable for contaminated soil that the company generated and distributed as landscaping fill in and around Pines, IN. The soil, contaminated by coal ash, contained hazardous substances, including arsenic, thallium and lead.

The company will provide site remediation at individual residences within the Town of Pines Groundwater Plume Superfund site and dispose of contaminated soil at a licensed waste disposal facility. The company is also required to monitor residential drinking water wells, groundwater monitoring wells, surface water, and sediments to ensure that contamination has not migrated to those locations.

WHO: A carbon fiber processing facility
WHERE: Moses Lake, WA
WHAT: EPCRA and CERCLA violations
HOW MUCH: $139,100

Three accidental releases of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) at a carbon fiber plant resulted in a six-figure civil penalty. EPA alleges the company failed to report the releases in a timely manner in violation of Section 304 of EPCRA and Section 103 of CERCLA. The company paid $100,100 for violations of EPCRA and $39,000 for violations of CERCLA.

In the first incident, the company allegedly waited 57 hours to notify the proper authorities of the HCN release, which occurred on November 25, 2017. Two additional releases in January 2018 and October 2019 resulted in approximately 40-minute and three-hour reporting delays respectively. HCN is a highly poisonous chemical and can be explosive in high concentrations.

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Tags: CERCLA, Clean Air Act, EPCRA, fines, penalties, roundup

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