EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 4/3
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.
Six companies that handle animal fat and vegetable oil in California face $175,000 in penalties for alleged oil spill prevention and planning violations.
US EPA announced a settlement with six California businesses that "store, process, refine, transfer, distribute or use animal fats or vegetable oils" recently for alleged noncompliance oil spill prevention requirements under the Clean Water Act. The settlements include civil penalties that range between $1,050 and $175,000.
Each company has since implemented corrections and achieved compliance with Federal SPCC regulations.
California's state-level Aboveground Petroleum Storage Act (APSA) does not cover the companies' industry sector. But animal fat and vegetable oils are covered under US EPA's Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) requirements. Under Federal SPCC requirements, the definition of oil starts this way:
"Oil means oil of any kind or in any form, including, but not limited to: fats, oils, or greases of animal, fish or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils..."
[40 CFR 112.2]
Businesses in California that produce, process, or handle large volumes of these oils should know their responsibilities under Federal SPCC planning requirements, including the on-site volume thresholds for SPCC planning and maintaining a Facility Response Plan or FRP.
Learn more: Developing an SPCC Plan Online Course ($179)
Clean Air Act violations spotted by helicopter over an oil and gas site in New Mexico resulted in a $440,000 civil penalty and significant reductions in methane and VOC emissions.
An oil and gas company operating in the Permian Basin has agreed to a settlement including $440,000 in civil penalties.
- The company’s storage tanks were allegedly leaking hydrocarbon—a CAA violation.
- EPA spotted these alleged violations during their helicopter fly-over of the area in 2020.
EPA estimates the company’s corrective actions to have reduced 1,715 tons of volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs) and 6,168 tons of methane emissions.
A national freight company will pay $535,000 in penalties to resolve stormwater noncompliance allegations across the US and Puerto Rico.
EPA alleged that this national freight company failed to comply with these specific requirements of their Clean Water Act permits regarding discharges of industrial stormwater at 9 facilities in the US and Puerto Rico:
- Spills that had not been cleaned up;
- Failure to implement required spill prevention measures;
- Failure to implement measures to minimize contamination of stormwater runoff;
- Failure to conduct monitoring of stormwater discharges as required; and
- Failure to provide all required training to company employees.
Learn more: NPDES Stormwater Permit Basics
The company is set to pay penalties of $535,000 to be split between EPA and multiple states to settle the alleged CWA violations. This settlement requires the company to enhance its stormwater compliance program everywhere except at its facilities in Washington state.
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Use this guide to spot which tanks and substances are regulated under EPA's Underground Storage Tank program, and which are excluded as of October 2018.