Environmental Permitting

Recent RMP Settlements Underscore Compliance Pitfalls


Recent RMP Settlements Underscore Compliance Pitfalls

On September 24 and 29, 2014 the EPA announced settlements with three different companies in two states for violations of to RMP regulations.  The first two settlements were at facilities in Idaho, one a corn-based ethanol production facility in Burley and the other a manufacturer of agricultural chemicals in Rupert.

The Burley facility utilizes ammonia (20% concentration of greater) in amounts exceeding 20,000 pounds and pentane in amounts exceeding 10,000 pounds, amounts that meet threshold quantities (TQs) and mandate compliance with the RMP requirements. Although the facility submitted an RMP to the EPA in March 2008, an inspection in May 2011 found multiple compliance failures.


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According to the Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) the EPA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) cited the Burley facility for multiple alleged violations of the RMP requirements including, but not limited to:

  • The lack of documentation for a range of different RMP requirements related to such aspects as leak scenarios, processes and systems, inspection and testing, etc.
  • Failure to resolve recommendations from the Process Hazard Analysis team in a timely manner,
  • Failure to consistently certify annually that the operating procedures are current and accurate and inability to demonstrate that procedures have been reviewed as often as necessary, and
  • Failure to correct emergency contact information within one month of a change.

Similarly, the Rupert facility uses more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and more than 20,000 pounds of ammonia (20% concentration or greater) and was also inspected by the EPA in May 2011. Again, the company did submit RMPs on four different dates from 1999 through 2012, however, the EPA’s CAFO cited a list of alleged violations including, but not limited to:

  • Lack of documentation related to multiple requirements for covered processes and procedures, training, and equipment,
  • Failure to analyze and report worst case release scenarios,
  • Failure to promptly determine and document an appropriate response to each of the findings of a 2010 compliance audit and that deficiencies had been corrected,
  • Failure to obtain and evaluate a contractor’s safety performance and programs prior to selection, and
  • Failure to register each covered process as required.

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Both facilities were assessed penalties for the alleged violations in the amounts of $83,497 for the Burley facility and $101,000 for the Rupert facility, and all violations have been corrected.

The third settlement was with a Commerce City, Colorado refinery that processes flammable substances and hydrogen sulfide in amounts that exceed the 10,000 pound thresholds. According to the EPA, the facility failed to adequately implemented RMP requirements for the chemicals, specifically noting that compliance deficiencies included compiling incomplete process safety information and failing to follow procedures for maintaining process equipment.

In addition, the EPA found the facility failed to report several releases of sulfur dioxide in 2010 and 2011 and also failed to file reports to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for cobalt compounds and tetrachloroethylene handled on site. According to the EPA, “The failure to file TRI forms deprives local communities of the right to know about the chemicals present on site and is a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).”

The EPA further noted that the Colorado facility’s compliance with RMP and EPCRA regulations will be a benefit to the surrounding communities, including populations within a 2.4 mile area around the facility that is approximately 70% minority and low income. The facility has since corrected all of the alleged violations and agreed to pay $230,400 in penalties.

 

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