The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has settled with two companies regarding alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations at their anhydrous ammonia facilities. EPA initiated investigations at facilities owned by the companies in response to releases that injured company employees. The companies agreed to pay civil penalties and bring their facilities into compliance.
Designs Not in Accord with Good Engineering Practices
According to EPA’s news release, the companies are subject to EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations, because they handle hazardous chemicals. The companies had not designed their processes in compliance with “good engineering practices,” which violated those regulations and the CAA.
Failing to Meet Industry and other Standards
EPA’s RMP regulations require companies to use “recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices” for facilities that have hazardous chemicals. Failure to do so violates the CAA. The required practices are generally not found in EPA’s regulations, but in publications from industry groups and standards organizations. As a result, many industry and other published standards have the force of an EPA regulation.
The experience of these ammonia facilities also serves as a reminder that regulatory agencies increasingly have a “no accidents” policy; that is, virtually all releases that result in an injury or evacuation will result in enforcement actions. The incidents will be investigated and a failure to meet “good engineering practices” or other regulations will almost always be found.
Companies should develop, follow, and review their RMPs. They should regularly audit to identify any deficiencies, knowing that significant releases will be subject to an after-the-fact investigation that will find a deficiency, and thus a CAA violation.
For a link to EPA’s news release https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-reaches-settlement-anhydrous-ammonia-facilities-kansas-and-iowa-alleged-clean-air