Aggressive federal enforcement of VOCs, surface coating emissions, wastewater, lead and other environmental issues cost companies more than $110 million in penalties and about $12 billion in pollution controls and cleanup in FY 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency reports.
EPA’s criminal enforcement program opened 346 new cases in FY 2010, charged 289 individuals—the largest number in five years—and convicted 198, the agency said in releasing its enforcement scorecard for the year.
This year’s results include an enhanced mapping tool that tracks enforcement actions at more than 4,500 facilities.
‘Commitment to Enforcement’
The agency conducted more than 20,000 inspections, resulting in the identification of about 5,300 facilities “in potential violation” and 932 instances where the facilities “took immediate action to correct a potential violation,” EPA said.
EPA’s civil enforcement actions for violations of the Clean Air Act will account for the reduction of an estimated 400 million pounds of air pollution per year, yielding annual savings of $6.2 billion to $15 billion in avoided health costs, EPA said.
“At EPA, we are dedicated to aggressively go after pollution problems that make a difference in our communities through vigorous civil and criminal enforcement,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“Our commitment to environmental enforcement is grounded in the knowledge that people not only desire, but expect, the protection of the water they drink, the air they breathe and the communities they call home.”
Focus on Surface Coatings
Much of the year’s enforcement activity stemmed from EPA’s 3-year-old Air Toxics National Compliance and Enforcement Strategy, which focuses on surface coatings, leak detection and repair (LDAR), and industrial flares.
Since 1990, EPA has promulgated 14 Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards for surface coating categories, a sector comprised of facilities engaged in the application of coatings on various substrates. The coatings are principally comprised of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS).
When coatings are applied, HAPs not captured or controlled to the degree required are emitted into the atmosphere, adversely impacting both the air quality and the surrounding population, EPA says. Some these HAPS are extremely toxic and are known or suspected carcinogens (e.g., methylene chloride, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene diisocyanate).
In FY 2010, enforcement of the Air Toxics initiative resulted in commitments to reduce an estimated total of 7.6 million pounds of pollutants in the first year after the facilities return to compliance. The primary pollutants reduced by these enforcement actions are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 1,3-butadiene, produced in a variety of manufacturing facilities.
New Source Review
Coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturing facilities have also been in the EPA’s crosshairs since FY 2008. EPA said it had determined that many sources of toxic air emissions made changes to their facilities without obtaining pre-construction New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration (NSR/PDR) permits required under the Clean Air Act—indicating, the agency says, that many stationary sources are illegally emitting thousands of tons of pollution.
Coal-fired power plants and cement manufacturing facilities are two of the four sectors targeted under EPA's new National Enforcement Initiatives for FY 2011-2013. Those two sectors will continue to be targeted for heightened enforcement under EPA’s new national enforcement priorities for FY 2011-2013.
The agency noted its January 2010 settlement with Lafarge North America, Inc., the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Portland cement, to reduce air emissions from their 13 U.S. plants. The agreement was the first system-wide settlement for the Portland cement manufacturing sector under the Clean Air Act. Lafarge agreed to install and implement control technologies at an expected cost up to $170 million and to pay a civil penalty of $5,075,000.
EPA has also stepped up enforcement of stormwater violations since FY2008. Guided by the Clean Water Act: Stormwater Strategy Summary of 2008-2010, EPA focused on runoff violations from the following industries: ready mix concrete with crushed stone, sand, and gravel operations; homebuilding and big box store construction. EPA also investigates ports, road building operations, and federal facility construction to monitor compliance with CWA stormwater standards.
Enforcement actions in FY 2010 “reduced, eliminated or properly managed” 1 billion pounds of water pollution, EPA said.
Enforcement activities prevented lead-based paint contamination in about 5,800 housing units, schools and buildings in FY 2010, EPA said. But the agency offered no details and, surprisingly, did not mention its controversial Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which kicked in Oct. 1 after a stormy phase-in period of more than two years.
The rule requires lead-safe training and certification of individuals and firms performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978. The agency is considering expanding the rule to the commercial and institutional sectors.
EPA said only that it “helped the regulated community comply with environmental rules on a range of topics” in FY 2010, including “avoiding lead exposure during renovations.” Lead and other activities prompted 1,075 on-site “assistance visits” in the last year, EPA said.
As of Dec. 1, EPA says, 441 accredited RRP training providers had conducted more than 24,904 courses, training an estimated 536,300 people in lead-safe work practices.
The agency also noted a forthcoming rule in New England, which will limit auto-body shop emissions of methylene chloride, chromium, lead, cadmium and other toxic air pollutants. That rule takes effect Jan. 1 in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.