What were the EPA’s Top Enforcement Actions in 2011? How Can Industries Ensure Compliance in 2012?

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: February 03, 2012
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In 2011, owing to EPA’s enforcement action, USD 19 million was invested to improve environmental performance out of which USD 3 billion was used to clean up hazardous waste in communities and ensure that the polluter pays. 3.6 bn pounds of hazardous waste was treated, minimized or properly disposed of, 1.8 billion pounds of pollution was reduced, treated or eliminated.   The EPA action also led to 89.5 years of incarceration for environmental criminals. 
Some of the top enforcement actions which enhanced deterrence and compliance with the law are as follows:
1.       The EPA reached a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The settlement required TVA to invest a TVA estimated USD 3 to USD 5 billion on new and upgraded state-of-the-art pollution controls. The investment would prevent approximately 1,200 to 3,000 premature deaths, 2,000 heart attacks and 21,000 cases of asthma attacks each year, resulting in up to USD 27 billion in annual health benefits. TVA would also invest USD 350 million on clean energy projects that would reduce pollution, save energy and protect public health and the environment.
The settlement followed an administrative compliance order (ACO) issued by EPA to TVA. The order was triggered by TVA’s non-compliance with the provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA).  It said that TVA modified a number of coal-fired units at nine of its plants without first complying with Clean Air Act (CAA) preconstruction obligations. The obligations included obtaining preconstruction permits and installing and operating state-of-the-art pollution control technology.
2.       The former owner of the country’s largest asbestos abatement training school, Albania Deleon, was sentenced to prison on Sep 13, 2011. She fled the United States after her trial in November 2008. She was sentenced to 87 months in prison. It would be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay more than USD 1.2 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and USD 369,015 to AIM Mutual Insurance Company.
She violated the law by committing environmental crimes to make a profit. At her school, asbestos was removed by untrained workers. The safeguards required for the removal were ignored thereby threatening the health of those workers and the public. Committing environmental crimes to make a profit that put workers and communities at risk carry serious consequences.
In November 2008, Deleon was convicted of a broad range of charges. Amongst them was selling training certificates to thousands of illegal aliens who had not taken the mandatory training course. She then placed these unqualified individuals in temporary employment positions as certified asbestos abatement workers in public buildings throughout Massachusetts and New England. Deleon was also convicted of encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States, making false statements about matters within the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); procuring false payroll tax returns, and mail fraud.
3.       On May 18, 2011 Mahard Egg Farm, Inc., a Texas corporation, agreed to pay a USD 1.9 million penalty to resolve claims that it violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its egg production facilities in Texas and Oklahoma. The civil penalty was the heaviest to be paid in a federal enforcement action involving a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). The company would also spend approximately USD 3.5 million on remedial measures to ensure compliance with the law and protect the environment and people’s health.
Mahard’s poultry operations generated significant amounts of manure -- estimated to be in excess of 50,000 tons of dry manure annually.  Mahard applied poultry manure to its agricultural fields in excess of the agronomic rates. This led to the accumulation of large amounts of nutrients in the soils. Rain would cause these nutrients to discharge to area waterways. Mahard's facilities thus failed to comply with Sections 301 and 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). 
4.       On June 9, 2011, Jeffrey Pruett of West Monroe, La, was sentenced in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to a total of 33 months incarceration. He received 21 months for seven felony counts and 12 months for one misdemeanor count, which would be served concurrently. Pruett and the two companies he owned and operated were also required to collectively pay a USD 310,000 criminal fine.
The violations threatened local drinking water supplies and people’s health by failing to meet the required Clean Water Act standards. Mr. Pruett’s disregard for the law led to sewage backups in people’s homes and endangered public health. Those who knowingly broke environmental laws would be held accountable for their criminal actions.
Pruett was Chief Executive Officer of LWC Management Company, Inc. (LWC) and Principal Officer of Louisiana Land & Water Company (LLWC). He was responsible for overseeing the operations and finances of both companies. Facilities that discharge effluent from wastewater treatment plants are required to obtain state discharge permits, in this case, from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. These permits required LLWC and LWC to properly operate and maintain sewage systems and wastewater treatment and control facilities and provide adequate staff qualified to ensure that the company complied with pollutant limits -- something which Pruett did not comply with. The state received numerous customer complaints about sewage backups at residences and cloudy, tainted water coming out of the taps. The state also received complaints about sewage discharges into roadside ditches near residences and improper termination of residents’ sewage and water services.
Compliance and enforcement is how EPA ensures that governments, businesses and industry understand and follow our nation's environmental laws and regulations.  Compliance helps organizations or individuals meet their obligations under environmental laws and regulations.  Enforcement takes legal action against an organization or industry when they do not comply with the law.
EPA ensures that governments, businesses and industry understand and follow national environmental laws and regulations through compliance and enforcement.  It initiates legal action against the violators.

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