2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

EPA inspected several facilities of a large commodity and specialty chemical distributer. The inspections identified failures of the company to comply with industry standards when handling anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonia, chlorine, and formaldehyde. EPA initiated an enforcement action, asserting that noncompliance with industry standards violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), especially the CAA’s General Duty Clause and Risk Management Program requirements.

Settlement Valued at $800,000
To settle the enforcement action, the company agreed to pay $600,000 in penalties, complete a supplemental environmental project (SEP) that will cost at least $200,000, and implement additional safety measures. The SEP will provide emergency response equipment to fire departments located near two of its facilities.

Violations for Failure to Comply with Industry Standards
EPA initiated enforcement despite no allegation that the facilities released hazardous chemicals in amounts that violated the law or were harmful.

The case is a reminder that companies with hazardous chemicals must ensure they know and comply with industry standards. According to EPA’s news release announcing the settlement: “When enforcing the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause or chemical accident prevention regulations, the EPA looks to these industry standards of care for how to design and operate a chemical production or distribution facility.” Also, industry standards “are routinely updated to keep up with improving technology…”

To see the news release, which has a link to the consent agreement https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-settlement-univar-solutions-usa-inc-improves-safety-five-chemical-distribution