Civil Enforcement Highlights
EPA’s civil enforcement program employs a variety of techniques to bring individual facilities, as well as industrial sectors, into compliance with the environmental laws. For example, in FY 2009 two completely different approaches paid high pollution reduction dividends: offering incentives for companies that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct violations and focusing enforcement attention on a sector where violations of one or more environmental laws involved a known human carcinogen. In FY 2009, the civil enforcement program also took action in a developing area of environmental violations: the illegal export of electronic waste.
Voluntary Disclosure Settlements Achieve Record Pollution Reductions
In FY 2009, EPA resolved voluntarily disclosed violationswith 400 entities, including more than 50 resolutions (~13%) that resulted in direct environmental benefits. As a result of disclosures resolved this fiscal year, more than 7.4 million pounds of hazardous waste will be treated, minimized, or properly disposed and nearly 23 million pounds of pollutants will be reduced or treated. In addition, voluntary disclosers will spend nearly $250 million to correct their violations. EPA’s incentive policies provide incentives to companies that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations. The companies must also take steps to prevent future violations. EPA may reduce or waive penalties for certain violations if the facility meets the conditions of the policy. Since 1995, over 5,600 companies at nearly 16,000 facilities have disclosed potential violations under the Agency’s Compliance Incentive policies. [More Information]
The following are significant resolutions in fiscal year 2009:
As part of a corporate-wide auditing agreement under EPA’s Audit Policy, INVISTA self-disclosed over 680 violations of water, air, hazardous waste, emergency planning and preparedness, and pesticide regulations to EPA after auditing the 12 facilities it acquired from DuPont in the United States. Under this settlement, the largest under EPA’s Audit Policy, INVISTA paid a $1.7 million civil penalty and will spend between $240 and $500 million to correct environmental violations it discovered at facilities in seven states. By correcting these violations, INVISTA will reduce harmful air pollution by nearly 10,000 tons per year. These emission reductions will result in estimated annual human health benefits valued at over $325 million, including 30 fewer premature deaths per year. [More Information]
EPA’s experience with INVISTA’s self-disclosure of violations, most of which originated with the prior owner of the affected facilities, guided the Agency in the development of its “Interim Approach to Applying the Audit Policy to New Owners (Interim Approach).” Launched in August 2008, the Interim Approach tailors incentives under the Audit Policy to encourage new owners to take the opportunity to audit, self-disclose, correct and prevent violations that began before an acquisition or merger. Since the issuance of the Interim Approach for new owners, EPA has received voluntary disclosures from, or entered into audit agreements involving, almost 100 “new owner” facilities.
Bristol Myers-Squibb, an international pharmaceutical manufacturer, agreed to reduce the output of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) at multiple industrial facilities around the country at a combined cost of $3.65 million and paid a $127,000 penalty in order to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act. Following an EPA information request to ensure compliance with ozone-depletion regulations for the Evansville facility, Bristol Myers-Squibb voluntarily conducted an audit of twenty-five of its other facilities and reported all potential violations it discovered. The retirement or retrofit of ODS-containing comfort cooling, commercial refrigeration and industrial process refrigeration units is estimated to result in a reduction of approximately 4,722 pounds of R-22 chlorofluorocarbons company-wide. The supplemental environmental project at the New Brunswick, New Jersey facility is estimated to result in the reduction of an additional 1,650 pounds of ODS refrigerants. [More Information]
Umicore, an international materials technology group, acquired a facility in Glen Fall, NY in 2007. In December 2008, Umicore disclosed potential RCRA violations discovered during an environmental health and safety audit. Umicore discovered that an overflow pipe for a cooling tower, installed prior to its acquisition, discharged cooling water classified as a hazardous waste due to the concentration of cadium to an undeveloped part of the facility. Umicore spent nearly $900,000 to cap the pipe, repair the sump pump, conduct soil removal activities and collect further samples of the impacted soils. The clean-up resulted in nearly 7.4 million pounds of potentially hazardous waste being properly managed.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Manufacturing Plants
Since 2003, when EPA began addressing noncompliance at polyvinyl chloride (PVC) manufacturing plants through FY 2009, EPA has addressed cross-media noncompliance at eleven PVC plants and will achieve the reduction of a total of 152,000 pounds of vinyl chloride emissions per year, once all of the injunctive relief and SEPs have been implemented. The PVC cross-media enforcement cases concluded in FY 2009 will prevent the release of over 12,000 pounds of vinyl chloride annually, a human carcinogen with a reportable quantity of one pound, into the environment.
U.S. v. Shintech Incorporated (Shintech) and K-Bin Inc.
In FY 2009, the United States reached a civil judicial settlement with Shintech for cross-media violations at Shintech’s Freeport, Texas PVC facility. Shintech is obligated under the consent decree to complete injunctive relief under the CAA and RCRA at a cost of over $4,800,000 to achieve compliance, and pay a civil penalty of $2,585,004 to the U.S. Additionally, the company agreed to perform three SEPs at an estimated minimum cost of $4,700,000, which will reduce vinyl chloride emissions, chlorofluorocarbon emissions, and provide land to be placed into conservation for environmental protection. The settlement, once fully implemented, will improve the air quality by reducing the Freeport facility’s vinyl chloride emissions by approximately 12,181 pounds per year. The settlement will also result in emissions reductions of approximately 2,472 pounds per year of hydrochlorofluorocarbon-123 (HCFC-123), approximately 1,805 pounds per year of hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22), and an additional one-time reduction of approximately 3,245 pounds of hydrochlorofluorocarbons. Shintech’s Freeport facility is located in a potential environmental justice area, and this consent decree will decrease vinyl chloride emissions for the community and stop the facility’s practice of treating, storing, and/or disposing of hazardous waste in land-based units. [More Information]
Enforcement Actions to Address the Illegal Exports of Electronic Waste
In FY 2009, EPA issued four RCRA administrative complaints against companies for illegally exporting electronic waste. Three of the cases involved containers of CRTs that were returned to the United States after being rejected by the receiving country. Computer monitors contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs), which are the video display components of televisions and computer monitors. The glass in CRTs typically contains enough toxic lead to require managing it as hazardous waste under certain circumstances. Color computer monitors contain an average of four pounds of lead. CRTs may also contain mercury, cadmium and arsenic. These companies were ordered to submit a detailed inventory of the items and to develop a plan for management and disposal of the electronic waste.
- EPA fined Supreme Asset Management and Recovery, of Lakewood, NJ, $199,900 for illegally exporting non-working computer monitors to Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008.
- W and E International Trading Company in Texas and SM Metals, in Lakewood, Washington, were ordered to properly dispose of computer waste that was exported to Hong Kong.
- EarthECycle, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, collects used electronic equipment and parts and in March, shipped containers of CRTs and other electronic waste to Hong Kong and South Africa. EPA ordered EarthECycle to properly dispose of the computer waste that was exported to Hong Kong and bring the waste back from South Africa and properly dispose of it here in the US.
- ZKW Trading Corporation in California was ordered to properly dispose of their electronic waste after it was returned from Hong Kong in August this year.
The companies all failed to notify EPA of the intent to export CRTs. Since January 2007, EPA has conducted over 38 civil investigations and issued 20 information request letters, as part of those investigations.