Chemicals, Enforcement and Inspection, Environmental

EPA Enforcement of EPCRA and General Duty Clause Requirements

Two Rhode Island companies, under separate, recently proposed settlements with the EPA, have been ordered to pay combined fines of approximately $280,000 due to alleged violations of reporting requirements for their uses of anhydrous ammonia and metals.

The companies alleged violations stem from compliance with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the process hazard review requirement of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at their respective facilities.

“The safety and wellbeing of New England communities is our top priority. EPA oversight practices are designed to protect and inform local stakeholders, making it important that companies are following and operating in line with environmental laws and regulations,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash in an Agency news release. “This settlement, which will strengthen public safety, highlights accident prevention and the community’s right to know about chemicals in their environment. We take these responsibilities seriously, especially to protect local populations that face disproportionate environmental risks in New England.”

Compliance requirements

General Duty Clause. Under CAA Section 112(r)(1), the General Duty Clause makes owners and operators of facilities that have on-site regulated substances or other extremely hazardous substances responsible for ensuring their chemicals are managed safely. Anhydrous ammonia is a regulated substance under 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 68—Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions, otherwise known as the Risk Management Program (RMP). Facilities with RMP-listed substances present in a process in amounts above the regulated threshold are subject to the RMP. However, facilities with such substances in amounts that don’t trigger the RMP threshold aren’t off the hook, as they’re subject to the General Duty Clause and must ensure the chemical is managed safely. In general, facilities subject to the General Duty Clause must conduct a process hazard review so they’re aware of the hazards posed by the chemicals on-site, are able to assess the impacts of potential releases, and can take actions to prevent accidental releases and minimize the consequences of any releases that do occur. 

EPCRA. Under EPCRA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) requirements, companies that manufacture, process, or otherwise use certain listed chemicals must annually report chemical releases to the EPA. This information provides the public with data about toxic chemicals in use at a facility and incentivizes companies to reduce harmful chemical use and improve their environmental performance.

Under EPCRA’s Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reporting requirements, otherwise known as Tier II reporting requirements, facilities with certain listed chemicals on-site in amounts above established thresholds must inform local officials and first responders of the presence of hazardous chemicals in case of an emergency. This information is also available to the public, upon request, so members of the public can be informed of the presence of hazardous chemicals in their communities.

Enforcement actions

W.R. Cobb, a metal stamping manufacturer located in East Providence, Rhode Island, has agreed to pay a penalty of $108,900 for alleged violations of EPCRA TRI reporting requirements and the General Duty Clause, according to the EPA. The company, which uses anhydrous ammonia in its manufacturing processes, failed to file TRI reports for the facility’s use of the chemical during calendar years 2018, 2019, and 2020. Additionally, W.R. Cobb failed to conduct a process hazard review for the facility’s use of anhydrous ammonia, as required by the General Duty Clause. Nearly 10,000 people live within a 1-mile radius of the facility. After the EPA provided notice in August 2021, the company filed all three missing TRI reports and completed a process hazard review.

Separately, the EPA settled an action with Millard Wire, a Warwick, Rhode Island-based custom metal wire and metal strip manufacturing facility, for violations of EPCRA reporting requirements and the process hazard review requirement of the CAA, according to the EPA. The alleged violations stem from Millard Wire’s storage and use of anhydrous ammonia and its processing of copper and nickel metals. The company was required to submit TRI forms for the facility’s use and processing of ammonia, copper, and nickel. The company also failed to submit Tier II report forms to the local emergency planning committee, the State Emergency Response Commission, and the local fire department, as required under EPCRA. Additionally, the company failed to conduct a process hazard review, as required under the General Duty Clause, for its use of anhydrous ammonia. Millard Wire corrected these violations based on the EPA’s notification, providing the required process hazard review, submitting Tier II forms, and filing its missing TRI forms for ammonia, copper, and nickel. Millard Wire agreed to pay a penalty of $170,261 and comply with EPCRA and the CAA.

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