Tyson Pleads Guilty to 20 Felonies and Agrees to Pay $7.5 Million for Clean Water Act Violations

June 27, 2003
Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat producer, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City to 20 felony violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its Sedalia, Missouri poultry plant and agreed to pay $7.5 million to the United States and the State of Missouri.

Under an agreement with the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tyson admitted to having illegally discharged untreated wastewater from its poultry processing plant near Sedalia into a tributary of the Lamine River. A consent judgment between Tyson and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office that resolves allegations of state environmental violations over the same discharges also was entered today in Pettis County Circuit Court.

Under the two pleadings, Tyson agreed to pay $5.5 million in penalty to the federal government, $1 million in penalty to the state, and $1 million to the Missouri Natural Resources Protection Fund to help remedy the harm caused by the illegal discharges. In addition, Tyson has agreed to hire an outside consultant to perform an environmental audit and then to implement an enhanced environmental management program based upon the audit’s findings to assure that the Sedalia facility will remain in compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations.

Tyson’s Sedalia plant processes approximately one million chickens per week and generates hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater per day. Tyson’s state permit issued under the federal Clean Water Act requires the company to treat the wastewater before discharging it into a nearby stream. The permit also establishes limits on the concentration of pollutants that the wastewater may contain.

Between 1996 and 2001, Tyson repeatedly discharged untreated or inadequately treated wastewater from its Sedalia plant in violation of its permit. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources cited the plant several times and the State of Missouri filed two lawsuits against Tyson in an effort to stop its illegal discharges. Tyson continued to discharge untreated wastewater through its storm drains, in spite of the company’s assurances that the discharges would stop and even after numerous warnings, administrative orders, two state court injunctions, and the execution of a federal search warrant at the Sedalia facility.

The violations were initially discovered by Department of Natural Resources investigator Billy Rogers, who then investigated the matter with investigator Terry Ball of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Rogers is now an investigator for the Environmental Protection Agency. The federal case was investigated by Special Agent David Clark of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Enforcement Division and by Special Agent Julia Jensen of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy Korzenik of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Stewart prosecuted the case on behalf of the federal government.

Canada and the US Launch Air Quality Pilot Projects

Canada and the United States will increase their cooperation to reduce cross-border air pollution by undertaking three major pilot projects that enable greater opportunities for coordinated air quality management between both countries. The announcement was made jointly on June 23, 2003 by the Honourable David Anderson, Canada's Environment Minister and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

Three pilot projects will be launched:

  • In southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington State, the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy will identify measures to reduce air emissions and address transboundary pollution;
  • For southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario, the Great Lakes Basin Airshed Management Framework will explore the development of a coordinated airshed management approach;
  • A joint study will explore the feasibility of emissions trading for NOx (nitrogen oxides) and SO2 (sulphur dioxide). NOx and SO2 emissions are key contributors in smog, fine particle, and acid rain problems in the transboundary region.

The joint projects will be completed in cooperation with provincial, state and other stakeholders. Identification of the pilot projects fulfills a pledge made by the two countries in January 2003, under the Border Air Quality Strategy. The Strategy is designed to build on the success of the 1991 Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, which established a framework for collaboration on science and emission reductions in both countries.

Background information on the Canada-United States Border Air Quality Strategy is available at: http://www.ec.gc.ca/canada_us/air/index_e.htm or http://www.epa.gov/airmarkt/usca/index.html .

EPA Announces First "Draft Report on the Environment"

Administrator Christine Todd Whitman announced the release of the EPA "Draft Report on the Environment" — an effort by the Agency to present the first-ever national picture of U.S. environmental quality and human health. Whitman commissioned the report in November 2001.

"This Draft Report on the Environment documents real gains in providing a cleaner, healthier and safer environment, " said Administrator Whitman. "More importantly, it begins an important national dialogue on how we can improve our ability to assess the nation's environmental quality and human health, and how we can use that knowledge to make improvements. Using the most sophisticated science ever, we have developed a comprehensive roadmap to ensure that all Americans have cleaner air, purer water and better protected land. This report is an important tool that will be useful for generations to come."

The report uses available scientific data, gathered from more than 30 other federal agencies, departments, states, tribes and non-governmental organizations, to answer questions that the EPA and its collaborators have identified as indicators of the nation's environmental quality and human health. It establishes scientific, consensus-based benchmarks to measure EPA's progress. This is the first time that EPA has developed a comprehensive report about the nation's environment, and it will be used as a baseline for future evaluations. The report shows that:

  • Air pollution has declined 25% over the past 30 years, and it declined while we experienced large increases in the U.S. population, gross domestic product and vehicle miles traveled.
  • In 2002, 94 percent of Americans were served by drinking water systems that meet our health-based standards – an increase of 15 percent in the last decade.
  • Releases of toxic chemicals have declined by 48% since 1988, and we have significantly improved the way we manage our wastes.
  • People are living longer than ever before. Infant mortality has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in the United States.

The report illustrates, however, that more must be done. For example, despite these substantial improvements, more than 133 million Americans live in areas that at times have unhealthful air. The report also noted the need for additional data to answer questions about the links between some environmental pollutants and health effects. From examples such as these, EPA is identifying areas to improve research and data collection and strengthen data partnerships with other federal agencies, states, tribes, and others.

"The President has asked each federal agency to be more accountable to the American public. In presenting this Report, we are providing a picture of what we know - and equally important what we don't know - about the condition of our nation's environmental and human health. We have made much progress over the past 30 years, but there is still more to be done. This draft report is a stepping stone toward helping EPA identify future data and research needs, and we are already putting that knowledge to work," said Whitman.

The report is part of the "Indicators Initiative" which strengthens EPA's efforts, under the President's Management Agenda, to identify priority areas of national concern and focus resources. Visit EPA's Web site http://www.epa.gov/indicators to learn more about the Environmental Indicators Initiative. The report is also available here.

DOT Registration Fees Due June 30

Fees Reduced for Registration Years 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006

On January 9, 2003, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reduced the hazardous materials registration fees, beginning with registration year 2003-2004. DOT also established a separate fee category for non-profit organizations.

Effective March 3, 2003, the two-tiered fee schedule is:

  • $125 per year plus a $25 processing fee for registrants meeting the U.S. Small Business Administration’s criteria defining a small business, or a not-for-profit business
  • $275 per year plus a $25 processing fee for all other registrants

The DOT fee table shows the applicable fees for all available registration periods and business category combinations.

Registrations must be renewed by June 30 of each year. Registration is permitted for one, two, or three years on a single registration statement with the applicable annual fees and a $25 processing fee.

The registration requirements, at 49 CFR 107.601–.620, apply to anyone who offers for transportation at any time any of the following:

  • A highway-route controlled quantity of Class 7 (radioactive) materials
  • More than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of a Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 (explosive) material in a motor vehicle, rail car, or freight container
  • A package containing more than one liter (1.06 quarts) of a material designated as extremely toxic by inhalation, which has been identified as a material meeting the criteria for a Zone A material that is toxic by inhalation
  • A hazardous material in a bulk packaging, container, or tank with a capacity at least 13,248 liters (3,500 gallons) for liquids or gases or more than 13.24 cubic meters (468 cubic feet) for solids
  • A shipment in other than a bulk packaging of 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) or more gross weight of a class of hazardous materials for which placarding of a vehicle, rail car, or freight container is required
  • A quantity of hazardous material that requires placarding under the provisions of 49 CFR 172 Subpart F (this requirement does not apply to farmers’ activities, as defined in 49 CFR 171.8, that are in direct support of the farmer's farming operations).

Federal, state, or state political subdivision agencies or their employees, are not required to register.

Registration is due by June 30. You are encouraged to apply or renew your registration over the Internet at http://hazmat.dot.gov/register.htm. You may also renew by phone at (800) 942-6990. Registration forms are on-line and are available upon request by phone at (617) 494-2545 or (202) 366-4109, or by e-mail at register@rspa.dot.gov. Registration forms may also be mailed to: U.S. Department of Transportation, Hazardous Materials Registration, P.O. Box 740188, Atlanta, GA 30374-0188.

For more information on registration, who requires registration, and the definitions of a small business and not-for-profit organization, go to http://hazmat.dot.gov/register.htm.