September 30, 2019
There are things you can do right now to help our climate – like investing in renewable energy. But a new video from the American Chemical Society digs into a few of the weirdest climate change-combating ideas. Check them out here: https://youtu.be/9agoVDFJs8A
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao Announces Issuance of Major Pipeline Safety Rules
On October 1, the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will publish three significant final rules to the Federal Register that will strengthen the safety of more than 500,000 miles of onshore gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines throughout the U.S. The rules will also enhance PHMSA’s authority to issue an emergency order to address unsafe safety conditions or hazards that pose an imminent threat to pipeline safety.
“These are significant revisions to federal pipeline safety laws and will improve the safety of our nation’s energy infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
The Nation's pipelines deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. The gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline safety rules would modernize federal pipeline safety standards by expanding risk-based integrity management requirements, enhancing procedures to protect infrastructure from extreme weather events, and requiring greater oversight of pipelines beyond current safety requirements.
The final rules address significant Congressional mandates from the Pipeline Safety Act of 2011 and recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board.
“The tremendous growth in U.S. energy production will require greater anticipation and preparation for emerging risks to public safety,” said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott. “These forward-looking rules will help ensure pipeline operators invest in continuous improvements to pipeline safety and integrity management.”
The gas transmission rule requires operators of gas transmission pipelines constructed before 1970 to determine the material strength of their lines by reconfirming the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP). In addition, the rule updates reporting and records retention standards for gas transmission pipelines.
The hazardous liquid rule encourages operators to make better use of all available data to understand pipeline safety threats and extends leak detection requirements to all non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines. In addition, the rule requires operators to inspect affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster so they may address any resulting damage.
The “Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures” final rule adopts the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule (IFR) which established temporary emergency order procedures in accordance with a provision of the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016” (PIPES Act). An emergency order may impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, or other safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities
MPCA Holds Northern Metal Recycling Accountable for False Emissions Reporting and Violating the Public’s Trust
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced it has reached a settlement agreement
with Northern Metal Recycling regarding its errors in reporting emission records. Under the settlement, Northern Metal Recycling admitted it submitted inaccurate emissions records to the MPCA and will permanently shut down its Minneapolis shredder operations by 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.
MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop released the following statement, “Minnesota expects its corporate citizens to do the right thing and follow its permit requirements. Northern Metal Recycling broke the public’s trust and showed a willful disregard toward its neighbors. These serious violations required a swift and proportional action.”
In addition, the MPCA is able to reopen Northern Metal Recycling’s permit for the new Becker, Minn., facility to incorporate additional monitors and reports for its pollution control equipment. The company is also required to pay a $200,000 civil penalty by October 1, 2019.
Jury Convicts Former Company President of Clean Air Act Violations Stemming from Explosion of Wibaux Oil Processing Plant
After a five-day trial, a jury convicted the former president and director of Custom Carbon Processing, Inc. of multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act after a 2012 explosion at the company’s oil processing plant in Wibaux injured three employees and caused extensive damage to the plant, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
The jury found Peter Margiotta, 62, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, guilty of all three counts in an indictment, including conspiracy, Clean Air Act—general duty and Clean Air Act-knowing endangerment. Margiotta faces a maximum 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine for an individual, a $1 million fine for an organization and three years of supervised release on the knowing endangerment crime.
The jury trial began on Sept. 23. U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters did not immediately set a sentencing date and continued Margiotta’s release.
“Cutting corners in the construction and operation of the oil processing plant violated the Clean Air Act, compromised the safety of employees and resulted in an explosion that injured three workers. Mr. Margiotta’s conviction should send the message that compliance with environmental regulations is required and that we will prosecute violators,” U.S. Attorney Alme said. “I also want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric E. Nelson, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General for their work in prosecuting and investigating this case.”
“We believe today’s conviction sends a strong message to those responsible for properly handling hazardous material,” said Jeffrey Dubsick, Regional Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our vigorous efforts to protect against those who would risk the safety of the public and the environment for personal gain.”
The prosecution presented evidence at trial of the following:
Margiotta was president and director of Custom Carbon Processing, Inc., a Wyoming company, which constructed the Michels Disposal Well and Oil Reclamation Facility in Wibaux in 2012. The construction was done in ways that allowed hydrocarbon vapors, extremely hazardous substances and hazardous air pollutants to be released into the air.
On July 4, 2012, Margiotta directed the opening of the plant before the implementation of appropriate electrical wiring, ventilation and other safety measures. On that date, the project manager emailed Margiotta, “The control panels must be moved asap with the explosion proof wiring. We also run the risk of killing someone, not only our operators but also customers.”
Margiotta also directed employees to accept shipments of highly volatile and flammable “natural gas condensate” or “drip gas” into the operations in a purported effort to help thin and process the slop oil at the plant.
Beginning in October 2012, Margiotta disregarded repeated warnings from the plant’s foreman that the natural gas condensate was not effective in thinning the slop oil and instead was creating a dangerous situation because of its highly volatile and flammable nature.
On Dec. 29, 2012, the plant accepted a delivery of natural gas condensate. During the offloading of the material at the plant, hazardous and flammable vapors from the natural gas condensate filled the plant building and spread out the open bay doors where the truck delivering the condensate was located. The vapors reached an ignition source, causing an explosion that injured three employees and extensive damage to the plant, the truck and trailer involved in the delivery.
Crete Pet Food Industry Supplier Fined $100,000 for Clean Water Act Violation
US Attorney Joe Kelly announced that United States District Court Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. sentenced Crete Core Ingredients L.L.C. on September 26, 2019, to pay a fine in the amount of $100,000 following the company’s misdemeanor conviction for violating the federal Clean Water Act. Crete Core Ingredients., a Crete, Nebraska-based company, specializes in processing animal materials and byproducts for the pet food industry.
Investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division determined that on June 19, 2013, Crete Core Ingredients was issued a wastewater discharge permit by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. The permit authorized the discharge of wastewater from the Crete Core Ingredients facility to the City of Crete’s publicly owned water treatment facility. The permit set forth limits on the amount of certain pollutants that were allowed to enter the water treatment facility. The permit further provided that in the event of a permit violation, Crete Core Ingredients was subject to penalties and sanctions as provided by the federal Clean Water Act.
On or about August 5, 2014, Crete Core Ingredients exceeded its wastewater discharge permit, thus violating the federal Clean Water Act. On August 5, 2014, wastewater flow data from Crete Core Ingredients to the City of Crete’s publicly owned water treatment facility showed a discharge of certain pollutants over twice the daily maximum that was permitted under the permit issued.
Senior Manager at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Charged in Connection with a Conspiracy to Mislead Regulators and the Public about Diesel Vehicle Emissions
A senior manager of diesel drivability and emissions at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was charged in an indictment unsealed today for his alleged role in a conspiracy to mislead U.S. regulators, customers and the public by making false and misleading statements about the emissions control software used in more than 100,000 FCA diesel vehicles in order to increase the vehicles’ emissions when they were not running on federal emissions test cycles.
Emanuele Palma, 40, an Italian citizen and resident of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to violate the Clean Air Act and to commit wire fraud. Palma is also charged with six counts of violating the Clean Air Act, four counts of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to representatives of the FBI and the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID).
“Cheating government regulators, customers, and the public for increased sales and compensation will be prosecuted by the Department of Justice to the fullest extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The indictment unsealed today demonstrates that the Criminal Division is committed to investigating and prosecuting sophisticated criminal schemes and corporate crimes that violate the Clean Air Act and other federal laws.”
“Emanuele Palma is alleged to have lied to the EPA, impeding its mission,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. “The charges announced today are serious ones, and reflect my office’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the American regulatory system.”
“The defendant is alleged to have knowingly misled EPA regulators to cover up illegal emissions control software installed in certain Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles,” said Susan Bodine, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We are prepared to use our criminal authorities when faced with allegations of lying and cheating to evade U.S. emissions standards.”
“The indictment in this case should signal to corporations and individuals working for them that there are significant consequences for attempting to bypass US emissions tests and defraud the American people,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D'Antuono of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The FBI is committed to working alongside our US and international partners to investigate these corporate crimes and to hold those who are alleged to violate environmental regulations accountable for their actions.”
As alleged in the indictment, Palma led a team of engineers in the United States responsible for developing and calibrating the 3.0-liter diesel engine used in certain FCA diesel vehicles. Palma supervised the calibration of several software features in the vehicles’ emissions control systems to meet emissions standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx), a family of poisonous gases that are formed when diesel fuels are burned at high temperatures.
The indictment alleges that Palma and his co-conspirators purposefully calibrated the emissions control functions to produce lower NOx emissions under conditions when the subject vehicles would be undergoing testing on the federal test procedures or driving “cycles,” and higher NOx emissions under conditions when the subject vehicles would be driven in the real world.
Palma and his co-conspirators allegedly referred to the manner in which they manipulated one method of emissions control as “cycle detection.” The indictment alleges that by calibrating the emissions control functions on the subject vehicles to produce lower NOx emissions while the vehicles were on the driving “cycle,” and higher NOx emissions when the vehicles were off the driving “cycle,” or “off cycle,” Palma and his co-conspirators purposefully misled FCA’s regulators by making it appear that the subject vehicles were producing less NOx emissions than they were in real world driving conditions. Palma and his co-conspirators allegedly calibrated the subject vehicles’ emission control systems to make them more attractive to FCA’s potential customers, i.e., by increasing fuel economy and reducing the frequency of a required emissions control system service interval, rather than to maximize the reduction of NOx emissions.
As further alleged in the indictment, Palma and his co-conspirators made and caused others to make false and misleading representations to FCA’s regulators about the emissions control functions of the subject vehicles in order to ensure that FCA obtained regulatory approval to sell the subject vehicles in the United States.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The FBI and EPA-CID investigated the case. Securities and Financial Fraud Unit Deputy Chief Henry P. Van Dyck and Trial Attorneys Kyle W. Maurer and Jason M. Covert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Senior Trial Attorney Todd W. Gleason of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crime Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Wyse of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also assisted in the case.
EPA Found Illegal Engines at Southern California Ports
EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced $11,775 in EPA fines to companies that illegally imported more than 500 vehicles and engines from China, including fork lifts, bicycle engine kits, loose engines and chainsaws, most of which were seized, exported and prevented from being sold in the United States.
These are the latest results of joint operations between EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to identify foreign-made engines, ATVs, motorcycles, and construction equipment without proper emission controls.
“EPA is looking closely at the emission controls on foreign-made engines being imported through the Southern California ports,” said Mike Stoker, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region. “We will continue to work with CBP to ensure items coming into the U.S. meet all federal requirements to protect our air quality.”
Under the joint program, seven companies were found to have imported vehicles and engines without certification or proper emissions controls. Engines operating without adequate controls emit excess carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory illnesses, aggravate asthma and lead to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog.
The companies include:
EPA has been conducting regular inspections with CBP at California ports of entry since 2014. With more than 40% of containerized goods coming into the U.S. through Los Angeles and Long Beach, the focus has been on engines, vehicles and pesticides. Mobile sources, such as on-road and off-road vehicles, are one the largest sources of air pollution in California and account for approximately 20% of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter up to 2.5 microns in diameter) and 83% of nitrogen oxide emissions. The seizures of these goods prevented the release of 600,000 pounds of air pollutants.
The Clean Air Act prohibits the importation or sale of any new engines or vehicles unless they are certified by EPA to meet federal emission standards. An EPA-issued certificate of conformity or a proper exemption from the certification requirement must cover every vehicle and engine sold in the U.S. To obtain a certificate of conformity, manufacturers or importers must submit an application to EPA that describes the engine or vehicle, including its emission control system. The application must also provide emissions data demonstrating that the engines and vehicles will meet applicable federal emission standards. For more information about importing vehicles and engines into the United States, please visit: http://epa.gov/otaq/imports
The companies include:
EPA has been conducting regular inspections with CBP at California ports of entry since 2014. With more than 40 percent of containerized goods coming into the U.S. through Los Angeles and Long Beach, the focus has been on engines, vehicles and pesticides. Mobile sources, such as on-road and off-road vehicles, are one the largest sources of air pollution in California and account for approximately 20% of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter up to 2.5 microns in diameter) and 83% of nitrogen oxide emissions. The seizures of these goods prevented the release of 600,000 pounds of air pollutants.
The Clean Air Act prohibits the importation or sale of any new engines or vehicles unless they are certified by EPA to meet federal emission standards. An EPA-issued certificate of conformity or a proper exemption from the certification requirement must cover every vehicle and engine sold in the U.S. To obtain a certificate of conformity, manufacturers or importers must submit an application to EPA that describes the engine or vehicle, including its emission control system. The application must also provide emissions data demonstrating that the engines and vehicles will meet applicable federal emission standards. For more information about importing vehicles and engines into the United States, see: http://epa.gov/otaq/imports
EPA Requires Eight California Facilities to Improve Chemical Safety
EPA announced settlements with eight industrial facilities in California over violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s chemical safety requirements. The agreements were reached under EPA’s expedited settlements policy
, which is only used in certain circumstances to address minor, easily correctable violations. The companies have corrected the violations and paid fines totaling $18,780.
“Ensuring facilities maintain an updated Risk Management Plan is critical,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “These actions ensure that facilities handling dangerous materials are minimizing potential impacts to the environment and the surrounding community.”
EPA inspections found the eight companies violated the Clean Air Act’s Chemical Accident Prevention regulations by failing to review and update facility Risk Management Plans; failing to design and maintain safe facilities; failing to conduct periodic compliance self-audits; failing to use updated population data in consequence analysis; or failing to post information on hazardous substances for employees.
The companies perform a variety of industrial operations throughout the state. The companies and penalties are:
- Foster Farms Belgravia Plant in Fresno, $6,600
- The Wine Group in Ripon, $2,400
- Ratto Bros. Inc. in Salida, $600
- 6th Street Cooling in Holtville, $1,620
- JR Simplot Company’s Helm Plant in Helm, $1,800
- California Dairies Inc. in Fresno, $3,600
- California Resource Production Corp., Grubb Lease Gas Plant in Ventura, $1,600
- Compton Ag Services LLC in Blythe, $2,000
The Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause
requires owners and operators of certain industrial sites to design and maintain safe facilities and minimize the consequences of releases. Facilities with significant quantities of toxic substances must develop and implement a Chemical Accident Prevention or Risk Management Program.
When properly implemented, risk management plans help prevent chemical releases and minimize their potential impacts at facilities that store large amounts of hazardous substances and flammable chemicals. Facilities are required to update and resubmit their risk management plans at least once every five years. The plans are used by EPA to assess chemical risks to surrounding communities and to prepare for emergency responses.
Henkel Fined for Unpermitted Discharges into Luzerne County Creek
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that Henkel US Operations Corp. has agreed to pay a $19,410 civil penalty
for five unpermitted discharges into a Luzerne County Creek, reporting violations, and failure to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements. The discharges from the company’s West Hazleton soap manufacturing plant resulted in soapy water and suds leaking into the creek two years ago.
“The department expects companies to comply with statutes and permits that protect our waterways from unlawful discharges; however, in this case, the company did not do that,” said Mike Bedrin, director of DEP’s Northeast Regional Office. “Companies have a responsibility to protect the waterways into which they are permitted to discharge.”
In January 2017, DEP responded to a complaint of foam in Black Creek and traced it to the opening of two storm drains on Henkel’s property. In response, Henkel cleaned and inspected two containment sumps and sealed attached piping. However, in early 2018, DEP received additional complaints from the public about soap suds covering the top and the banks of Black Creek and blowing into a nearby neighborhood. An investigation by staff from DEP and Henkel traced the discharged substance to an area just below the company’s stormwater outfall. The investigation subsequently revealed that a pipe used to convey Henkel’s wastewater to the nearby sewage treatment plant was damaged. This allowed the wastewater to seep into the ground near the stormwater line, resulting in the unpermitted discharges.
In addition to the unpermitted discharges by Henkel, the company did not notify DEP in writing of the discharges within five days of the event as per a condition of its operating permit. It also failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements that are part of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
DEP determined that Henkel’s unpermitted discharges and failure to comply with reporting, monitoring, and sampling requirements were violations of Henkel’s NPDES permit and the state’s Clean Streams Law.
DEP’s Bureau of Clean Water staff monitored the creek after the incident and did not identify indications of long-term impacts.
In addition to agreeing to pay the civil penalty, Henkel has installed a new wastewater line to replace the damaged line conveying flow to the public sewage treatment facility.
The civil penalty will go into the state’s Clean Water Fund, which provides funding for programs to promote water quality across the commonwealth.
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