Enforcement and Inspection

Our First EPA Enforcement Roundup of 2020

In the fourth quarter (Q4), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized 71 settlement agreements with companies small and large across the United States. This represents a significant decrease in enforcement actions, down from 158 penalties issued in Q3 and 106 in Q2. However, the actions taken resulted in almost $2.5 million in fines. In addition, the courts levied a large penalty in the Northeast. Here are some of the highlights.

Balancing environmental enforcement and business

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FIFRA Violations Yield Biggest Fine from EPA

The largest fine assessed by the EPA in Q4 was to a chemical manufacturer for producing and distributing an unregistered disinfectant on multiple occasions, using outdated labeling, and not properly reporting pesticide production. In all, the company was assessed a penalty of $300,415.

There were additional enforcement actions taken against 14 other entities for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), with penalties that ranged from $800 to $100,000. In all, FIFRA violations accounted for just over $639,000 in Q4.

Targeting Bulk Terminals

A bulk gasoline terminal in New Jersey was fined over $225,000 by the EPA for numerous violations of federal New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) over several years.

A bulk oil terminal in Idaho agreed to take remedial actions and to pay $159,000 for discharging oil into the Columbia River as a result of leaking underground piping. The company paid an additional $133,200 fine of operating without an adequate Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan.

Emphasizing Chemical Accident Prevention

The EPA cited nine different organizations for violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which deals with chemical accident prevention and the risk management program. The fines totaled just over $375,000 and ranged from $4,500 up to almost $102,000.

EPCRA Violations Bringing 5-Figure Fines

The EPA continues its consistent enforcement for violations of the Hazardous Chemical Inventory (Tier II) and Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA):

  • A fiberglass tank manufacturing company in Missouri was penalized $31,376 for failing to submit a timely TRI report;
  • A plastics manufacturer in Tennessee was fined $79,065 for failing to submit complete Tier II and TRI reports for multiple years;
  • A metal treatment company was penalized $62,544 for failing to include a chemical on its Tier II and TRI reports for multiple years; and
  • A defense contractor in Rhode Island was fined $59,100 for failing to submit a timely TRI report for multiple years.

Other CAA and CWA Violations

In October, the U.S. District Court for the district of Massachusetts ordered a bulk petroleum terminal and transport operation in Massachusetts to pay $1.3 million in penalties for violations of both the CAA and the Clean Water Act (CWA). The penalties for CAA violations stemmed from the failure to properly operate and maintain air pollution controls equipment, failure to inspect and repair equipment, and failure to maintain records. The penalties for CWA violations were for failure to comply with stormwater requirements, including failure to implement best management practices as required by permit.

The EPA also assessed penalties of $40,000 and $59,000 to two other facilities for NESHAP violations under the CAA. The agency also took enforcement actions against 10 other entities for violations of the CWA totaling just over $218,000, with penalties that ranged from $2,400 to $112,500.