EPA Enforcement Roundup: Week of 10/11

Posted on 10/11/2021 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 others.

We withhold the names of organizations and individuals subject to enforcement to protect their privacy.

WHO: A rubber manufacturer
WHERE: Sulphur, LA
WHAT: CERCLA, EPCRA and Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $3.35 million

According to the US Department of Justice (on behalf of EPA) and Louisiana environmental inspectors, a rubber manufacturing plant allegedly emitted excess amounts of regulated air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). The facility allegedly failed to comply with equipment requirements related to its use of dryers, cooling towers, and flares.

As part of the consent decree, the manufacturer will pay a civil penalty of $2,098,678.50 to the United States and $1,251,321.50 to Louisiana for a total of $3,350,000. The company also agreed to complete a Beneficial Environmental Project by funding ambient air monitoring system upgrades in several locations in Southwest Louisiana.

WHO: A natural gas processing facility
WHERE: Coahoma, TX
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $3 million

A gas plant agreed to a $3 million civil penalty after an accidental fire at the facility resulted in the death of one of its employees. EPA alleges that thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic substances were also released into the air during the incident.

The settlement requires the company to take steps to prevent chemical accidents and improve safety at six company natural gas processing plants in Texas and New Mexico and shut down two of its facilities. The company agreed to hire an outside, independent engineering firm to recommend actions to improve process safety at six of the operating plants. The six plants will also implement an environmental management system to improve their compliance with all Federal, State, and local air pollution–related requirements.

WHO: A waste management landfill
WHERE: McMinnville, OR
WHAT: Clean Air Act violations
HOW MUCH: $104,482

A 2018 EPA inspection found nine separate instances of elevated methane emissions at different areas of a waste management facility. After reviewing facility records, EPA alleged that the landfill did not conduct adequate surface emission monitoring and failed to monitor cover integrity monthly, as required.

Under the Clean Air Act, the landfill is required to capture the emissions generated as the garbage breaks down. To ensure the landfill is properly capturing the emissions, the company is also required to conduct surveys of the surface of the landfill to see if any gases are leaking at least four times per year. If methane emissions above 500 parts per million are detected, the landfill must take corrective action to ensure those emissions are captured.

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Tags: CERCLA, Clean Air Act, EPA, EPA Enforcement Roundup, EPCRA, fines, penalties, Superfund

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