EPA, Justice Department Score New Round of Enforcement Actions

Published November 21, 2003

The U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency announced several new Clean Air and Clean Water fines during the month of October.

ChevronTexaco Agrees to Pay $275 Million for NSR Pollution Upgrades

ChevronTexaco has agreed to install cutting-edge pollution abatement technology at its five major oil refineries to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review mandates. The October 16 settlement with EPA, Justice Department, and state and local officials is expected to cost the company $275 million.

The facilities are located in California, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Utah, and constitute roughly 5 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

EPA Assistant Administrator J.P. Suarez said that as a result of the settlement, emission-reduction agreements govern more than 40 percent of the nation’s refining capacity.

Suarez said the ChrevronTexaco settlement is the fourth largest refinery settlement since EPA began an enforcement initiative during 1999 under the Clinton administration. Other companies that have agreed to settlements under the initiative include BP Amoco, CHS Inc., Coastal Eagle Point Oil Co., Equilon Enterprises, Ergon Refining Inc., Ergon-West Virginia Inc., Koch Petroleum, Lion Oil Co., Marathon Ashland Petroleum, Motiva Enterprises, Murphy Oil USA, Premcor Refining Group Inc., and Shell Oil Co.

ChevronTexaco spokesperson Nicole Hodgson disputed the government’s underlying allegations of Clean Air Act violations, but said the company supports the settlement as a means of ensuring regulatory certainty.

Hodgson also reported that ChevronTexaco has during the past two years spent $100 million in pollution controls at the five facilities. The $275 million in upgrades will be in addition to the $100 million already spent.

Occidental Faces up to $10 Million in Fines

On October 1, EPA announced it will fine Occidental Chemical Corp. up to $10 million, and perhaps more, after the company allegedly emitted too much vinyl chloride from its Pottstown, Pennsylvania chemical factory. EPA also alleged Occidental failed to monitor its emissions properly and neglected to report emissions to authorities.

EPA investigators prepared for their on-site investigation of the Pottstown plant by taking a two-day course in plastics manufacturing at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport. “We’re open to go in and look at a chemical and really study the process,” said Samantha Fairchild, director of enforcement, compliance, and environmental justice for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region.

Occidental officials said they could not comment on the EPA charges before thoroughly studying the complaint.

Coastal Oil Agrees to $3.5 Million Fine

Coastal Eagle Point Oil Co. (Coastal Oil) agreed on October 2 to pay a $3.5 million fine to settle several alleged clean air violations at its Gloucester County, New Jersey refinery. EPA teamed with New Jersey officials in investigating Coastal Oil and obtaining the settlement.

Coastal Oil faced citations for 18 alleged pollution violations since 1998. In addition to paying the $3.5 million fine, the company has agreed to facility upgrades projected to cost between $3 million and $7 million.

“In the past, Coastal Eagle Point Oil Company failed to comply with air pollution laws and operated without proper regard for the health of New Jersey’s residents,” said Bradley Campbell, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

“In this settlement the company agrees to more stringent environmental safeguards that will greatly reduce air pollution above and beyond current safeguards and provide those living in Gloucester County better air quality,” Campbell added.

“The Coastal Eagle Point Oil Company is pleased to have resolved several outstanding issues with the United States and the state of New Jersey by this agreement,” said Mel Scott, spokesperson for Coastal Oil’s parent company, El Paso Corporation.

Alltel Accepts $1 Million Penalty

Also on October 2, Alltel Corporation agreed to pay a $1.05 million penalty for failing to keep records mandated by the Clean Air Act and for failing to obtain necessary permits. The company additionally agreed to undergo environmental compliance audits at each of its 7,500 nationwide sites.

Alltel emphasized it had not violated substantive pollution provisions of the Clean Air Act, but rather had failed to abide by regulatory paperwork requirements.

“At no point in the EPA’s investigation or the negotiation of this consent decree did the EPA allege or conclude that Alltel engaged in any action that resulted in the improper release of any material into the environment or any other harm to the environment or the public,” stated an Alltel press release on the settlement.

Vail Resorts Accepts $80,000 Fine

Vail Resorts Inc. on October 17 accepted an $80,100 fine for violating the Clean Water Act by building a service road in protected wetlands.

The Department of Justice had discovered Vail filled in a protected wetland when it built a road to transfer logs out of the resort area.

In addition to the fine, Vail has agreed to restore the wetland to its prior condition.

Vail officials, stressing their Clean Water Act violations were unintentional, released a statement calling the settlement a fair resolution of its conduct.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].