Enforcement and Inspection

EPA Deals Out Big Fines in Q3

In Q3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized 158 settlement agreements with companies small and large across the United States. There was a definitive increase in enforcement actions, with only 106 penalties issued in the previous quarter. Here we highlight some of the biggest fines.

Balancing environmental enforcement and business

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8-Figure Fine for CAA Violations

In September, the EPA announced that it reached a settlement with a major heavy equipment manufacturer for violating Title II (Emissions Standards for Moving Sources) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). From 2012 to 2015, the company stockpiled engines that met outdated emissions standards, which were installed in heavy construction equipment that it imported, marketed, and sold. During this period, the company allegedly introduced at least 2,269 illegal diesel nonroad vehicles into the U.S. market.

While a $1.95 million criminal fine has already been imposed by the Justice department, look for this $47 million civil penalty to be finalized in the coming months.

FIFRA Penalty Approaches $1.5 Million

A penalty of $1,489,000 was assessed to a Pennsylvania company for selling unregistered pesticide products, selling a registered pesticide whose claims differ from claims made in the EPA registration, and selling a misbranded pesticide.

There were additional enforcement actions taken against 19 other entities for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), with penalties that ranged from $300 to $322,200.

TSCA Violations

Another large penalty—over $544,000—must be paid by a northern New Jersey business that specializes in the procurement of construction products from global supply chain networks. In April, the company submitted a voluntary disclosure through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) system, which revealed it was not in compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood. While the violations were self-reported, the EPA determined that the company did not meet the conditions of the audit policy, and therefore the violations did not qualify for a penalty reduction.

There were also enforcement actions taken against 19 other companies for violations of TSCA, with penalties ranging from $400 to $25,000. Notably, 14 of these enforcement actions were issued for violations of TSCA Section 402(c) Lead Exposure Reduction Proposed Renovation and Remodeling Rule. With the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts published in December, it looks like there’s a focus on lead paint-related violations by renovation companies.

Water Pollution Citations

A mining company was ordered to pay $240,000 for violations related to its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and an additional $210,000 for violations of its Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) at its gold mine near Juneau, Alaska. Among the many violations, the company discharged acid rock drainage into a nearby lake, failed to develop a complete stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP), and failed to conduct required monitoring, assessments, inspections, and trainings.

In addition, there were enforcement actions taken against 38 other entities (including local governments) for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), with penalties that ranged from $1,000 to $82,500.

Chemical Company Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations

A Texas-based manufacturer of chemicals used in the oil industry was fined $318,560 for shipping large quantities of hazardous waste while claiming conditionally exempt small quantity generator status. In addition, the company failed to make hazardous waste determinations, maintain required records, comply with Land Disposal Restrictions, and it also stored hazardous waste without a permit.

In addition, there were enforcement actions taken against 18 other entities for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) with penalties that ranged from $740 to $78,919.