2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

In news releases dated July 20 through July 22 and posted on EPA’s website are five announcements of enforcement settlements with private entities.

Lack of Pollution Does Not Prevent Penalties

Common to all announcements:

  • EPA did not allege an actual release of pollution beyond facility boundaries.
  • Alleged deficiencies were operating facilities with inadequate pollution prevention, inadequate pollution prevention plans, or inadequate notice to governmental entities of the presence of hazardous chemicals.

The news releases cover eight different companies, some with multiple facilities.  In the settlements, the companies agreed to penalties ranging from $22,000 to $238,000.  At least one news release mentioned that the company’s facility, with inadequate alarms, seals, inspections, and repairs, was in an “area of potential environmental justice concern.”  The penalties were in addition to the costs to upgrade facilities, develop adequate plans, and make the required filings.

Possible Enforcement Trend
Facility operators should appreciate that when EPA inspectors find violations for inadequate facilities, even without an actual release, or find what operators might consider to be “paperwork” violations, enforcement actions with penalty demands are likely.  Pollution prevention, especially prevention of emergency events in environmental justice communities, appears to be an EPA priority.  Also, enforcement cases based on inadequate facilities, inadequate plans, and filing failures are easy for EPA to make, thus allowing EPA to report more enforcement cases in a time of reduced resources.

The news releases can be found using https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/search?search_api_views_fulltext=&page=0