Colonial Oil to Pay $2.8 Million Penalty for Failure to Meet Clean Air Act Fuel Regulations

April 22, 2024
The Justice Department and the EPA recently reached a settlement with Colonial Oil Industries Inc. that will require the company to pay a civil penalty of more than $2.8 million and spend an estimated $12.2 million to offset the detrimental human health and environmental impacts of Colonial’s alleged failure to meet obligations under the Clean Air Act’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and gasoline volatility standards.
Between 2013 and 2019, Colonial excluded certain fuel it supplied to marine vessels from its renewable volume obligations calculations in violation of the RFS regulations. Fuel intended for use only in ocean-going vessels is not required to be included in renewable volume obligation calculations. But not all marine vessels are ocean-going vessels, and volumes supplied to other marine vessels must be included in such calculations. Colonial’s actions resulted in less renewable fuel being used in lieu of gasoline and diesel fuel, causing increased greenhouse gas emissions.
“The creation and use of renewable fuels reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This proposed settlement will hold Colonial to the same renewable fuel requirements that all importers and producers must adhere to.”
“Renewable fuels play a critical role in diversifying our country’s energy mix and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, all while providing good paying jobs and economic benefits to communities across the country,” said Assistant Administrator David M. Uhlmann of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement once more puts gasoline and diesel refiners and importers on notice that they must meet their obligations to reduce climate- and health-harming pollution and that there will be consequences if they do not.”
Under the RFS program, refiners or importers of gasoline or diesel fuel are required to either blend renewable fuels into transportation fuel or purchase credits known as Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to meet their renewable volume obligations. Between 2013 and 2019, Colonial failed to purchase and retire enough RINs. The settlement requires Colonial to purchase and retire over 9 million RINs within two years at an estimated cost of approximately $12.2 million. The RIN purchase and retirements is estimated to result in over 18,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reductions which equates to powering 2,386 homes’ energy use or 4,355 gasoline cars for a year.
Colonial also sold over a million gallons of gasoline that failed to meet the applicable volatility standard which is intended to reduce evaporative emissions during the summer season from gasoline that contributes to smog and to reduce the effects of ozone-related health problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Attorneys from the Justice Department’s Environmental Enforcement Section are handling the case.
The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available on the Justice Department’s website:
Investigation Affirms 3 Dozen Workplace Safety Citations Against Auto Recycler, $868K in Penalties
The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with one of the East Coast’s largest auto recyclers and used parts suppliers affirming 35 citations issued for workplace safety violations at its Camden facility and assessing related penalties.
The agreement with The Auto Store LLC, operating as My Auto Store, follows litigation prompted by an investigation by OSHA of the nationwide parts supplier. OSHA inspectors found dozens of infractions, leading to affirmance of two willful violations for failing to ensure employees could exit the workplace safely and four repeat violations for not protecting workers from machine operation hazards, inadequate machine lockout/tagout procedures and failure to control flammable liquids.
Among the 29 additional violations, OSHA identified insufficient protections from fall, electrical and noise hazards putting employees at risk. The Auto Store will pay $868,628 in penalties and take action to enhance its efforts to comply with federal safety regulations, including putting a comprehensive safety and health program in place to protect its employees.
"Our settlement with The Auto Store LLC shows again that the department's OSHA and its Office of the Solicitor will enforce safety standards vigorously to ensure that employers come into compliance and make meaningful safety improvements to protect their employees," said Regional Solicitor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York. "The resolution we reached requires enhanced programs to protect workers from serious hazards and allows them to provide input and to participate in the company’s safety programs."
The settlement requires The Auto Store to implement — consistent with OSHA's guidance — a comprehensive corporate Safety and Health Management System that includes the following:
  • Multiple safety audits of the facility by a third-party consultant.
  • Safety training programs based on the audit findings.
  • Multiple avenues for workers to participate in safety efforts without fear of retaliation, including a Safety Management Committee that will review audit findings and evaluate the progress of the company's safety programs.
Based in Camden, The Auto Store LLC purchases more than 7,000 cars and trucks each month for dismantling. Its inventory of more than 80,000 used parts are sold at its company location and its parts pickup locations in Baltimore and in Bayonne and Camden, New Jersey, and in Brooklyn, New York. The company also sells parts online for shipment to buyers nationwide.
Trial Attorney Peter Kellett with the Office of the Solicitor in New York led the department's litigation of the case.
U.S. Department of Labor to Honor Job Fatalities and Recommit to Safety on Workers Memorial Day
When the nation first observed Workers Memorial Day on April 28, 1970, an estimated 38 U.S. workers suffered fatal on-the-job injuries each day and many more endured debilitating respiratory diseases and other life-altering illnesses related to workplace exposures.
Today, work-related injuries in the U.S. claim about 15 people's lives a day. In 2022, a reported 5,486 workers suffered fatal injuries, an increase of 296 worker deaths from 2021.
This year, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration will remind the nation of the importance of protecting workers as families, friends, co-workers and the community at-large gather across the country for Workers Memorial Day events on Sunday, April 28 to honor people who didn’t come home at the end of their shift.
"As we honor our fallen workers on Workers Memorial Day, we must remember that behind each workplace fatality there are loved ones enduring unimaginable grief," said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "It is for the lost workers and those left behind that we continue to fight for every worker's right to a safe working environment. Our mission at OSHA is to ensure that when someone leaves for work, they know they'll come home safe at the end of the day to the arms of their families and loved ones."
To commemorate Workers Memorial Day, the department will host a week-long series of events from April 22-25 to educate employers on the importance of safe and healthy workplaces. The series will culminate at an in-person and nationally livestreamed event at 1 p.m. EDT at its Washington headquarters where OSHA and MSHA leaders will join AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Stacy Sebald with the United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities, whose 19-year-old son Mitchell McDaniel suffered fatally injuries in an agriculture incident in 2019.
"We come together on Workers Memorial Day to remember those we have lost in workplace accidents and to prevent work-related illnesses," said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. "At MSHA, we know a safe workplace isn't a privilege – it's every miner's right. It is in the memory of fallen workers that we continue to advocate for each miner's safety, health and dignity."
Proper Planning, Safeguards Could Have Prevented Dock Collapse
A Connecticut marine and heavy construction contractor could have prevented the October 2023 collapse of a 200-foot section of pier on Hervey Tichon Avenue in New Bedford — which plunged five workers into the Acushnet River and injured two of them — by adhering to legally required safety standards, a U.S. Department of Labor inspection has determined.
OSHA inspectors found that Mohawk Northeast Inc. of Plantsville did not determine if the pier's walking and working surfaces had the strength and structural integrity to support employees safely with the weight of materials and equipment on it. OSHA issued the company a willful citation and assessed $161,323 in proposed penalties.
The agency also proposed an additional $53,004 in penalties for four serious violations related to potential fall, drowning and struck-by hazards posed by the employer's failure to do the following:
  • Provide fall protection for employees working on the pier.
  • Anchor or secure a crawler crane to the barge effectively to prevent its shifting.
  • Provide life jackets for employees working on the pier and an adjacent barge.
  • Protect or mark the crane's swing radius to prevent it from striking employees.
"Mohawk Northeast Inc. had a responsibility to determine if the pier was structurally sound and ensure other required safeguards before placing its employees and equipment on the pier, but it chose not to do so. Proper planning and preparation could have prevented the pier's collapse. While fortunate that no fatalities occurred, the company still exposed employees needlessly to potentially fatal and disabling injuries," said OSHA Area Director James Mulligan in Braintree, Massachusetts.
The proposed penalties total $214,327. View the citations OSHA issued to Mohawk Northeast Inc.
Mohawk Northeast Inc. is a construction contractor specializing in heavy and marine construction, as well as tugboat transportation. It has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
U.S. Department of Labor Fines Colorado Trader Joe's $217K for Violating Federal Safety Regulations
During a December 2023 inspection at a Trade Joe’s location, OSHA found safety hazards associated with unsafe forklift operations and lack of training for forklift operators.
OSHA cited Trader Joe's for lack of adequate safety training for forklift operators and failing to inspect forklifts at the Greenwood Village facility. Trader Joe's had been cited for violating these same standards in three prior OSHA inspections in Pennsylvania, Maine and Massachusetts. The company was also cited for repeatedly blocking and rendering inaccessible electrical equipment with boxes, a violation that Trader Joe's was previously cited in Maine, New York and New Jersey.  Proposed penalties total $216,902 as a result of the Colorado inspection.
Trader Joe's is a popular grocery store chain with eight locations in Colorado and 568 stores across the country. The company is headquartered in Monrovia, California. Trader Joe's Co. has 15 business days from receipt of citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"Employers must comply with all federal safety standards, including forklift safety training and keeping areas around electrical equipment clear to help prevent serious injuries and fatal incidents," explained OSHA Area Director Chad Vivian in Englewood, Colorado. "We will continue to cite companies that fail to implement the measures necessary to protect their employees from these hazards."
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