EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 3/6
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 oil & natural gas company
WHERE: West Texas Basin
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $610,000
A helicopter equipped with an infrared camera allowed EPA to spot hydrocarbon leaks from tanks, flares, and a combustor at an oil and natural gas operation in the Permian Basin area of Texas.
The company must pay $610,000 in civil penalties for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Texas State planning requirements. The site will also upgrade equipment, review procedures, and conduct tank pressure monitoring and optical gas imaging inspections.
EPA estimates that the facility’s corrective actions will result in greatly reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and methane.
WHO: 3 importers of HFCs
WHERE: National enforcement effort
WHAT: Greenhouse gas reporting violations
HOW MUCH: About $900,000 combined
For allegedly failing to report imported quantities of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), EPA has proposed penalties of $247,601 for a chemical manufacturer; $275,000 for a refrigerant supplier; and $382,473 for an oil and gas company. HFC importers are required to report imported quantities under the Clean Air Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).
HFCs are commonly used as refrigerants, in building insulation and fire extinguishing systems, and in aerosols.
WHO: A grocery store chain
WHERE: Lenexa, Kansas
WHAT: FIFRA violation
HOW MUCH: $5,374
An Iowa-based grocery store chain was recently cited by EPA for allegedly violating of a pesticide product (disinfectant wipes) in violation of a FIFRA “Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order.” EPA previously penalized the manufacturer of the wipes for failure to register the pesticide-containing disinfectant product under FIFRA.
An EPA inspector found the disinfectant wipes for sale in an Overland Park, Kansas store, which led to a FIFRA “Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order.” The store violated that order, EPA says, by disposing of some of the product without submitting a notification or seeking approval.
The civil penalty amount may seem small compared to the ones above, but the enforcement action shows the wide range of businesses impacted by environmental law and regulations.
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