August 13, 2023
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published preliminary Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)
data about chemical waste management, including releases, and pollution prevention activities that occurred during 2022 at more than 20,000 industrial and federal facilities across the country.
“The information released today is one way EPA helps inform Americans about toxic chemical releases in their communities, including those that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “For the first time, these preliminary data include reporting from natural gas processing facilities and from 24 contract sterilization facilities that were required to report their ethylene oxide releases beginning this year.”
The 2022 preliminary data were reported by facilities in covered industries that manufactured, processed or otherwise used substances on the TRI chemical list
above certain threshold quantities during 2022. The preliminary data include quantities of these chemicals that facilities released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste and also include details about pollution prevention activities initiated by individual facilities during 2022.
The public can use the preliminary data to identify facilities that reported to TRI (for example, to locate facilities in a certain ZIP code locality) and learn which chemicals those facilities manage as waste and in what quantities.
The dataset released today contains the data as submitted by facilities and does not include any summary or trend analysis. While the preliminary data have not yet been through the complete TRI data quality process, the reporting software that facilities used to submit these data (TRI-MEweb) includes many automated quality checks that help prevent common mistakes during data entry. EPA is conducting additional quality checks to identify suspected reporting errors and follow up with facilities if data quality issues are identified. For details about the TRI data quality process, see the TRI Data Quality webpage
The 2022 preliminary data will be updated periodically to reflect revisions to previously submitted data and late submissions. EPA plans to publish a revised version of the dataset in October 2023, which will include late submissions and revisions submitted by facilities. EPA will then use the revised dataset to develop the 2022 TRI National Analysis which the Agency expects to publish in early 2024.
You can explore the preliminary data by going to EPA's Envirofacts website and searching for a specific location, industry sector or facility. You can also download the data files for your own use.
This is the first year that TRI data include reporting from natural gas processing facilities. In November 2021, EPA added natural gas processing facilities
to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the TRI. The rule expands coverage to include all natural gas processing facilities that receive and refine natural gas. Natural gas processing facilities that primarily recover sulfur from natural gas were already covered by TRI. For 2022, EPA has received 1,152 TRI reporting forms from 230 natural gas processing facilities.
This is also the first year that TRI data include reporting of ethylene oxide (EtO), a chemical that has been on the TRI chemical list since 1986, from certain contract sterilization facilities that previously had not been subject to TRI reporting requirements. These facilities release EtO or otherwise manage the chemical as waste. In December 2021, EPA issued a decision extending TRI reporting requirements to 29 sterilization facilities
that were likely to exceed the 10,000 pounds per year “otherwise used” TRI reporting threshold for ethylene oxide.
As of July 12, 2023, EPA has received TRI reporting forms for EtO from 24 of the 29 contract sterilization facilities. EPA is following-up with the five contract sterilization facilities that did not submit TRI forms for EtO. The 24 contract sterilization facilities reported managing over 6 million pounds of production-related waste of EtO of which 8,863 pounds were released on-site to air during 2022.
This is the third year that TRI data include reporting on per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) added to the TRI list of chemicals under requirements established by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). EPA has received 120 TRI reporting forms for 46 discrete PFAS from 44 facilities. The preliminary data indicate facilities managed over 1,151,000 pounds of production-related waste of PFAS during 2022. EPA anticipates additional reporting on the quantities of PFAS released or otherwise managed as waste to begin to be made after the rule to remove applicability of the de minimis exemption for PFAS – which allows reporting on PFAS to be avoided – is finalized later this year.
United States Orders Oil Company To Pay $5.5 Million for Unlawful Air Pollution from Oil and Gas
Mewbourne Oil Company (Mewbourne) has agreed to pay a $5.5 million penalty and undertake projects expected to cost at least $4.6 million to ensure 422 of its oil and gas well pads in New Mexico and Texas comply with state and federal clean air regulations and offset past illegal emissions.
These terms are in settlement of claims alleged in a civil complaint – filed jointly by the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) – which alleges that, at more than 100 of its oil and gas production operations in New Mexico and Texas, Mewbourne failed to obtain required state and federal permits; failed to capture and control air emissions from storage vessels; and failed to comply with inspection, monitoring and recordkeeping requirements. EPA and NMED identified the alleged violations through field investigations and repeated flyover surveillance conducted in 2019, 2020, and 2022. Mewbourne’s actions taken pursuant to the deal will eliminate more than 11,000 tons of harmful pollutants from the air each year.
“Today’s settlement will eliminate 11,000 tons of harmful air pollutants annually and ensure that Mewbourne complies with the Clean Air Act,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The result will be cleaner, healthier air for communities in New Mexico and Texas.”
“Good air quality is essential to the health of our communities, and we need to ensure that oil and gas facilities are properly designed, maintained, and monitored in order to meet national standards,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work to improve air quality and public health, including holding oil and gas production operations, like Mewbourne, accountable for their violations of federal and state law.”
“Compliance with air quality regulations is essential to ensure the health of our people and the protection of our environment,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary, James Kenney. “We will continue to conduct oil and gas investigations and aggressively enforce violations.”
In addition to paying a $5.5 million fine – to be shared equally by the United States and the State of New Mexico – the consent decree, filed together with the complaint, requires the company to take numerous steps to ensure that 422 well pads covered by the Decree and located in New Mexico and Texas are operated lawfully. New Mexico’s portion of the fines will be sent to the State of New Mexico’s general fund.
Mewbourne will spend at least $3.6 million to implement extensive design, operation, maintenance, and monitoring improvements, including installing new tank pressure monitoring systems that will provide advance notification of potential emissions and allow for immediate response action by the company.
Mewbourne’s compliance with the consent decree will result in annual reductions of more than 9,900 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 1,300 tons of methane. VOCs are a key component in the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
In addition, as a co-benefit of these reductions, the consent decree will result in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. 1,300 tons of annual methane reductions equates to more than 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Eliminating the release of this amount of methane per year is similar to eliminating the annual use of 3.4 million gallons of gasoline. Greenhouse gases from human activities are a primary cause of climate change and global warming. This enforcement effort furthers EPA’s commitment to deliver public health protections against climate-impacting pollution and other pollutants for communities across America and helps deliver on EPA’s top commitment in its strategic plan, which is to tackle the climate crisis.
Mewbourne will also spend at least $1 million to offset the harm caused by the alleged violations by replacing over 2,000 pollutant-emitting pneumatic devices with non-emitting devices on an accelerated schedule. This offset project will reduce VOC emissions over 15 years by approximately 4,500 tons beyond that required by existing regulation.
The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for criteria pollutants that are considered harmful to public health and the environment. Ozone is a criteria pollutant that is created when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and VOC react in the atmosphere. VOC and NOx are emitted by oil and gas production facilities, such as those operated by Mewbourne. During the timeframes of Mewbourne’s alleged violations, air quality monitors in the relevant counties in New Mexico registered rising ozone concentrations exceeding 95% of the NAAQS for ozone. In counties where ozone levels reach 95% of the NAAQS, NMED is required by New Mexico state statute to take action to reduce ozone pollution.
Mewbourne is an independent oil and gas producer engaged in the exploration, development, production and acquisition of oil and natural gas resources in the United States. The company is a large producer in the Permian Basin, which is a shale oil and gas producing area located in southeast New Mexico and West Texas.
Genentech To Pay Penalty for Claims of Hazardous Waste Violations at San Francisco Facility
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Genentech, a biopharmaceutical manufacturer based in South San Francisco, for claims of hazardous waste violations at three locations at its South San Francisco facility. Genentech will pay $158,208 in civil penalties.
In August 2021, EPA inspectors found that Genentech stored waste without a permit and did not meet requirements related to monitoring hazardous waste air emissions, failed to mark equipment and record it correctly, failed to perform required inspections of emissions control equipment, and failed to maintain overfill protection controls for a hazardous waste tank. EPA inspectors also identified hazardous waste manifests that failed to include all necessary federal waste codes.
“When a company fails to comply with hazardous waste storage and monitoring requirements, that company puts workers and communities at risk of harmful exposures,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA is committed to enforce the laws that keep people safe.”
Hazardous waste that is improperly managed seriously threatens human health and the environment. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act passed in 1976, requires effective monitoring and control of air emissions from hazardous waste storage tanks, pipes, valves, and other equipment since these emissions can cause adverse health and environmental effects and contribute to climate change.
Department of Labor and Norfolk Railway Union Enhance Safety at Ohio Derailment Site
After several U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety and health investigations at the East Palestine, Ohio, site where a Norfolk Southern Corp. train derailed in February 2023, the train's operator has entered into a settlement agreement with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
On Feb. 2, 2023, the train derailment caused a 49 railcar pile-up, including 11 tank cars of hazardous chemicals. The chemicals ignited and the pile-up burned for several days.
In response to a referral from the U.S. Department of Transportation, OSHA opened enforcement inspections on March 2, 2023, to assess the union's concerns for the health of workers rebuilding tracks and conducting clean-up operations near the derailment site.
Under terms of the settlement, Norfolk Southern agreed to do the following:
- Implement a medical surveillance program for all affected employees who worked at the derailment site.
- Provide union employees with 40-hours of Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training for future derailments.
- Create a training program on lessons learned from the Ohio derailment.
- Pay penalties assessed by OSHA for four safety and health violations.
"This agreement will improve the safety and health controls in place for Norfolk Southern employees who responded and help educate the rail operator's employees on the lessons learned so they are prepared should another emergency occur," explained OSHA Area Office Director Howard Eberts in Cleveland. "We are pleased by the collaborative safety and health efforts of Norfolk Southern Corp, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division and contractors from the clean-up site who have been working together on this site remediation."
OSHA will continue to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state and local officials to protect workers' safety and health as clean-up operations continue.
OSHA's investigations included personal and area air samplings for workers involved in site and water cleanup, including Norfolk Southern employees installing new railroad track at the site.
The agency also opened enforcement inspections of CTEH, an environmental consulting firm, and two other companies on site for the cleanup — Specialized Professional Services of Washington, Pennsylvania and Hepaco Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina — to investigate complaints about workers exposed to chemicals as they cleaned up nearby creeks where spills killed fish. OSHA issued a citation to Specialized Professional Services for inadequate control of the site and decontamination areas, which they immediately corrected. OSHA did not cite CTEH or Hepaco.
OSHA also opened an inspection in response to reports employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention became ill after visiting area homes on March 6, 2023, but issued no citations.
After completing its inspections, OSHA issued Norfolk Southern citations on Aug. 2, 2023, for four violations and proposed $49,111 in penalties. The violations primarily related to work conducted on Feb. 4, 2023, as crews constructed track panels and laid them out on the south tracks, west of the spill location. Norfolk Southern abated the hazards immediately. Specifically, OSHA issued citations to the company for the following:
- Not developing an emergency response plan that included clear lines of authority, communication and training, site security, adequate site control and decontamination areas.
- Failing to require workers to wear chemical resistant footwear when walking on contaminated soil.
- Allowing employees without respiratory protection to pour cement on potentially contaminated soil.
- Not training workers about hazardous chemicals.
In addition to OSHA's enforcement role, the agency joined the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA in a unified command structure to oversee site clean-up since the derailment. OSHA has also worked with the Department of Transportation and its Federal Railroad Administration in a non-enforcement role since Feb. 20, 2023.
Norfolk Southern Corp. and its subsidiaries operate about 19,300 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern U.S. with connections to other rail carriers. The company is a major transporter of industrial products, including agriculture, forest and consumer products, chemicals, and metals and construction materials, and is the largest rail shipper of auto products and metals in North America.
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