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Clean Air Act: Agriculture-Related Enforcement Cases

The following are agriculture-related enforcement cases pertaining to the Clean Air Act.

March 29, 2011

Agricultural Company To Pay EPA Penalty and Conduct Safety Workshops
Minnesota-based Cenex Harvest States (CHS), Inc has agreed to settle a series of alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its facilities in Garretson, SD for $35,200. This includes a $15,500 civil penalty and $19,700 which will be used to conduct several agricultural ammonia safety workshops in multiple states including North and South Dakota. These workshops will include information on how the EPA Risk Management Program requirements apply to agricultural ammonia facilities and how these facilities can meet these requirements. CHS will also remove large tanks of ammonia (a toxic substance) from the Garretson, SD city center.

EPA conducted a compliance inspection at the CHS facility in April of 2010 to assess compliance with federal risk management program regulations. The settlement requires CHS to implement improved maintenance and internal auditing of equipment used to store and process hazardous chemicals, as well as improves how the facility addresses correcting identified hazards. The settlement also requires CHS to ensure removing the ammonia from the city center will not adversely affect availability of ammonia for local customers.

Under the Clean Air Act, operations such as CHS must develop a risk management program and submit a risk management plan to assist with emergency preparedness, chemical release prevention, and minimization of releases that occur. EPA Inspectors found that the facility had not adequately implemented those regulations.

“Companies using chemicals and substances which pose a potential danger to their employees and the public are responsible for having a robust risk management program in place,” said Mike Gaydosh, director of EPA’s enforcement program in Denver. “Failure to do so places the environment, employees, and the nearby community at risk. CHS has been cooperative and has agreed to take corrective action and provide workshops to educate others about the dangers of ammonia to the community.”

CHS, which has operations in several states, is subject to the risk management regulations because it handles and stores large quantities of ammonia, classified as “extremely hazardous” by EPA. Exposure to ammonia can result in burns to the skin, eyes, and lungs; exposure at higher concentrations has resulted in fatalities. Failure to establish adequate programs and keep plans updated can increase the risk of accidents and reduce preparedness for emergencies.

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February 22, 2011

Southeast Missouri Farm Supply Retailer To Pay $54,922 Civil Penalty for Chemical Risk Management Program Violations
ADI Agronomy, Inc., which owns a group of farm supply facilities in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, has agreed to pay a $54,922 civil penalty to the United States for chemical Risk Management Program violations at its Ag Distributors retail facility at Kennett, Mo., which sells liquid fertilizer made with anhydrous ammonia.

EPA Region 7 issued an administrative compliance order to the Kennett facility in July 2010, after an inspection noted eight violations of the chemical Risk Management Program regulations contained in the federal Clean Air Act. Specifically, Ag Distributors failed to establish and implement maintenance procedures to ensure the ongoing integrity of its anhydrous ammonia process equipment, and failed to document that the equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices, among other violations.

As part of an administrative consent agreement issued by EPA in Kansas City, Kan., ADI Agronomy, doing business as Ag Distributors, agreed to pay the $54,922 penalty.

The Ag Distributors facility in Kennett is subject to the Risk Management Program regulations because it uses, stores, manufactures or handles the on-site movement of 10,000 pounds or more of anhydrous ammonia in its fertilizer production process, the agreement says. Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive, and exposure to it may result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes and lungs. Facilities like Ag Distributors that mix or blend fertilizers using anhydrous ammonia, but which do not sell anhydrous ammonia directly to farmers, must implement the most stringent type of Risk Management Program, known as the Program 3 Prevention Program. Ag Distributors failed to comply with the Program 3 Prevention Program requirements, which require detailed safety precautions, preventative maintenance, operating procedures, and employee training measures.

Risk Management regulations are intended to help prevent accidental releases of harmful chemicals, and help local emergency responders prepare for and respond to chemical accidents. Failure to have an adequate Risk Management Program and Plan can compromise a facility’s ability to prevent releases and minimize the impact of releases that do occur.

As part of its settlement with EPA, ADI Agronomy has certified that the Ag Distributors facility in Kennett is now in compliance with the chemical Risk Management Program regulations.

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Washington Fertilizer Distributors Fined Over $33,000 for Failing To Properly Plan for Chemical Releases at Eight Facilities
Two Washington ammonia fertilizer distributors have agreed to pay over $33,000 for failing to update their plans for preventing chemical releases at eight facilities throughout Washington.

AG Link, Inc. will pay $13,521 and Colfax Grange Supply Co., Inc. will pay $19,986 to settle alleged violations of the Risk Management provisions of section 112(r) of the federal Clean Air Act.

In October 2009, EPA discovered that AG Link, Colfax and their eight facilities located at Almira, Davenport, Edwall, Coulee City, Reardan, Colfax, Wilbur, and Steptoe, Washington failed to update their risk management practices at least every five years as required by the CAA. The facilities store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which exceeds the threshold quantity that triggers federal planning requirements.

According to Wally Moon, EPA’s prevention team leader in EPA’s Emergency Response program in Seattle, having a solid prevention program in place can help a facility keep a dangerous situation under control if a workplace accident occurs.

“Companies with large amounts of ammonia on-site must have a solid, comprehensive leak prevention program in place,” said EPA’s Moon. “They have a responsibility to protect workers, emergency responders and the community to make sure a serious accident doesn’t occur.”

As a result of this enforcement action, AG Link and Colfax have corrected their violations. The required risk management plans consists of the following:

Anhydrous ammonia is a chemical used in refrigeration and agriculture. Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and with high enough exposure, death.

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December 10, 2009

EPA Reaches Agreement with Pesticide Production Facility on Clean Air Violations
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Dow AgroSciences LLC on alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's pesticide production facility at 305 N. Huron Ave., Harbor Beach, Mich. The agreement, which includes a $70,000 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that Dow Agro violated national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants at its Harbor Beach plant.

The company generates methanol and uses xylene, both hazardous air pollutants, in making pesticide active ingredients at the plant. Short-term exposure to methanol may result in blurry or dim vision as well as damage to the nervous system. Long-term exposure may result in headache, giddiness, insomnia, gastric disturbances, visual disturbances and blindness. Long-term inhalation of xylene can cause headache, dizziness, fatigue, tremors and lack of coordination. Short-term inhalation can irritate the nose and throat and cause nausea, vomiting and gastric irritation.

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November 23, 2009

Clean Air Act Violators on Northwest Indian Reservations Face EPA Fines
A company and an individual on Indian reservations in the Northwest have agreed to pay penalties for violations of the Federal Air Rules for Indian Reservations under the Clean Air Act, according to two orders issued by EPA. The company failed to control its emissions and register with EPA, and the individual conducted outdoor burning during a burn ban, according to orders issued by the Agency.

"Protecting air quality on Northwest Indian reservations is a priority," said Ed Kowalski, Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle’s EPA office. "We will enforce these rules as needed to protect human health and the environment and to deter other violators."

McNabb Grain, Inc., which operates a grain elevator on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Pocatello, Idaho, has agreed to pay $15,462 for several violations, according to an EPA order. The violations arise out of the company’s failure to register with EPA as an air pollution source from 2007-2009, and to identify and implement reasonable precautions needed to control particulate matter emissions from the facility. The company has recently come into compliance with these requirements.

Robert Meyer, who does business under the name FMF Excavation, was hired in December 2008 to dispose of agricultural waste at the Green Acre Farms site, located within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Indian Reservation in Wapato, Wash. According to an EPA order, Meyer disposed of these materials by open burning during a burn ban, and that the burn continued even after he had been advised that the burn ban was in effect. Meyer agreed to pay a penalty of $2,470.

The Federal Air Rules for Reservations include rules regulating open burning, agricultural and forestry burning, control of particulate matter, registration and reporting of emissions from air pollution sources, and other rules to protect air quality and human health on Indian reservations in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. For several years, EPA Region 10 provided technical assistance to regulated sources of air pollution. EPA is now addressing violations with formal enforcement, which may include penalties.

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May 15, 2008

Michigan Sugar Settles Clean Air Act Permit Violations
Michigan Sugar, a grower-owned sugar cooperative located in Bay City, Mich., will use pollution reduction measures valued at more than $13 million at its processing facility to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced today. Along with the pollution reduction measures, Michigan Sugar will also pay a $210,000 civil penalty.

"Today's settlement secures permanent and substantial emission reductions for citizens in the affected states," said EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator Bharat Mathur. "Sugar beet processing facilities can be major sources of air pollution, and this agreement raises the bar for the industry."

The cooperative has agreed to shut down old equipment and use cutting-edge technology that will reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 446 tons per year. Michigan Sugar dries and processes beets to make sugar. The sugar is sold under the brand names of Pioneer Sugar and Big Chief Sugar. The sugar beet pulp is processed in dryers that generate VOCs and carbon monoxide. The cooperative agreed to use new equipment which will reduce emissions to nearly zero.

The government complaint alleges that the company violated federal and state clean air laws by building a pulp dryer and also by subsequently increasing operating hours without obtaining the appropriate permits. These permits are required to control emissions of VOCs and carbon monoxide. VOCs contribute to the formation of smog. The primary component of smog is ozone, a gas that is created when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, especially in strong sunlight. Smog can cause a variety of respiratory problems and is a risk for people with asthma, children and the elderly.

The consent decree, lodged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

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February 7, 2008

Washington Company Fined Over $17,000 for Clean Air Act Violations
EPA announced that Cowiche Growers, Inc. (CGI) has agreed to pay $17,538 for alleged federal Clean Air Act emergency prevention and planning violations. As part of the settlement with the EPA, CGI has corrected all alleged violations, and has agreed to pay the penalty and spend at least $43,615 on implementing two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) within the next 6 months. One SEP involves installation of new equipment that will store the company's anhydrous ammonia in a safer and more secure location. The other involves the purchase of communications equipment for the local fire district. CGI owns and operates a cold storage warehouse in Cowiche, Washington, where it utilizes more than 10,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia. At that level of use, section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act requires CGI to implement a Risk Management Program at the facility.

Based on an inspection of CGI in June of 2006, EPA found the facility’s prevention program to be insufficient. EPA was particularly concerned about the lack of:

Following the inspection, CGI has worked diligently towards coming into compliance.

"The RMP program is designed to protect public health and the environment by ideally preventing releases or in the event there is an unavoidable accidental release by lessoning those effects through effective emergency response planning,” said Kelly Huynh, EPA’s RMP Coordinator in Seattle. CGI’s program needed more attention to achieve those goals. ”

The federal Clean Air Act, Section 112(r), requires the development of a Risk Management Program and submittal of Risk Management Plans for all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle greater than a threshold amount of a regulated substance(s). Toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, are covered by the program. The Risk Management Program requires, but is not limited to, the development of an emergency response or action plan; evaluation of a worst case and more probable case chemical release; operator training; review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances; and operating procedures and equipment maintenance.

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November 1, 2007

EPA Reaches Agreement With Indiana Corn Mill Company on Clean Air Violations
EPA Region 5 has reached an agreement with Tate & Lyle North America on alleged clean-air violations at the company's wet corn mill at 3300 U.S. 52 S., Lafayette, Ind. The agreement, which includes a $188,100 penalty, resolves EPA allegations that Tate & Lyle made major modifications at the mill that significantly increased emissions of carbon monoxide without getting a permit requiring best available emission controls.

In a related action, Tate & Lyle agreed to comply with an EPA order to apply for a permit to install best available emission control technology to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. When carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream, it reduces delivery of oxygen to the body's organs and tissues. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can impair vision, hand movement, learning ability and performance of complex tasks, and can also cause death.

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September 6, 2007

Settlements Reached in Eight Enforcement Cases for Hazardous Chemical Risk Management Plan Violations
Over the past several months, EPA has brought enforcement actions against eight New England facilities located in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire for failure to complete five-year updates to their Risk Management Plans (RMPs), as required by federal regulations under the Clean Air Act.

Under the regulations, any facility containing more than a threshold amount of certain hazardous chemicals is required to fully update and resubmit an RMP to EPA a minimum of every five years. RMPs include an assessment of the hazards associated with using the hazardous chemical, an accident prevention program, and a plan for emergency response in the event of an accidental release.

Under this effort, EPA took legal action against the following facilities throughout New England:

- A.T. Wall Company, Inc. (Warwick, R.I.)
- Danbury Water Pollution Control Plant (Danbury, Conn.)
- Gold Medal Bagel Bakery, Inc. (West Haven, Conn.)
- Mace Adhesives and Coatings Co., Inc. (Dudley, Mass.)
- Northampton MA Wastewater Treatment Plant (Northampton, Mass.)
- Shield Packaging Co., Inc. (Dudley, Mass.)
- Stonyfield Farm, Inc. (Londonderry, N.H.)
- Webster Wastewater Treatment Plant (Webster, Mass.)

The bulk chemicals used and stored at these facilities included anhydrous ammonia, toluene, isobutene and chlorine. As a result of these cases, the facilities have agreed to correct the violations and pay penalties ranging from $300 to $3,650.

“In this era of heightened security concerns, it is imperative that facilities managing and using hazardous materials do so with vigilant attention to all legal and safety requirements,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This is not just a paperwork exercise. By following Risk Management Plan requirements, facilities help prevent chemical accidents and save lives.”

A number of large and small chemical releases by local companies have led EPA’s New England office to intensify efforts to make sure facilities storing large amounts of chemicals follow procedures for reporting the presence of chemicals and follow steps to prevent chemical accidents. These practices are required by several federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act.

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February 5, 2007

Seven Eastern Washington Facilities Face EPA Penalties for Risk Management Program Violations
Six food-processing and storage facilities and one wastewater treatment facility in Eastern Washington have been issued EPA penalties for federal Clean Air Act Risk Management Program violations. The penalties, ranging from $2,208 to $7,488, were levied against facilities that utilize toxic chemicals. The penalties were assessed under Section 112(r) of the federal Clean Air Act. This section requires the development of Risk Management Plans (RMPs) and programs for all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle flammable and toxic chemicals such as chlorine, sulfur dioxide, and anhydrous ammonia. Facility’s Risk Management Programs are important to local emergency planners and responders to protect the public from accidental releases of flammable gases and/or toxic chemicals.

The following facilities entered into settlement agreements with EPA between October 2006 and January 2007 and have corrected their violations:

According to EPA officials, in six out of seven cases, potential release concerns weren’t addressed by the facility in an appropriate manner.

“We’re trying to prevent chemical releases to protect workers and the surrounding community.” said Kelly Huynh, EPA’s RMP Coordinator Region 10 in Seattle. “Prevention and advance planning is the ‘heart’ of our risk management program. Facilities need to take risk management planning very seriously. Like fire prevention, it could be a matter of life or death.”

The Risk Management Program requires an emergency response strategy, evaluation of a worst case and probable case chemical release, and a prevention program that includes operator training, a review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances, operating procedures, and equipment maintenance. There are 470 facilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska that need to meet the RMP and program requirements. Some examples of covered facilities include:

1) Wastewater/Water Treatment Plants
2) Cold Storage Facilities
3) Refineries
4) Chemical distributors

All of these penalties were conducted under EPA’s Expedited Settlement Agreement process. EPA has the option to use the Expedited Settlement Agreement process for easily correctable violations.

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October 26, 2006

$13.9 Million Clean Air Act Settlement with Multinational Soybean and Corn Processor Secures Major Pollution Reductions in Eight States
A multi-state Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement, reached with oilseed processor Bunge North America Inc. and three of its subsidiaries, will eliminate more than 2,200 tons of harmful pollution emissions per year when fully implemented. The $13.9 million settlement covers 12 plants in eight states, each of which has joined the United States as a co-plaintiff.

"Agricultural processing facilities can be major sources of air pollution and this settlement secures permanent and substantial emission reductions for citizens in the affected states," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This agreement is evidence of the Bush Administration's continuing commitment to ensuring compliance with the Clean Air Act. EPA expects companies to act responsibly and within the law when it comes to protecting public health and the environment."

The settlement covers eleven soybean processing plants – in Decatur, Ala.; Marks, Miss.; Destrehan, La.; Emporia, Kan.; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Delphos, Ohio; Marion, Ohio; Decatur, Ind.; Morristown, Ind.; Cairo, Ill.; and Danville, Ill. – as well as a corn dry mill extraction plant also located in Danville, Ill. The U.S. alleges that at some or all of these 12 plants, Bunge or a subsidiary violated the CAA by constructing major modifications that increased emissions without obtaining pre-construction permits and without complying with applicable standards of performance for new air pollution sources.

The settlement, which follows other settlements with oilseed processors, including Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), will continue the imposition of lower emission standards on soybean processing plants and will also require other pollution reduction projects, including piloting of a new technology to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning boilers. When fully implemented, the settlement will eliminate more than 2,200 tons per year of harmful emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM).

"This settlement will result in healthier air in the 11 airsheds where the plants are located. Eliminating over 1,000 tons of emissions of volatile organic compounds, for example, will reduce the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs and exacerbates diseases such as asthma," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We remain committed to working with EPA and the states to bring companies and industries into compliance with the laws that protect public health and our environment."

Bunge, a multi-state agribusiness based in St. Louis, is the North American operating arm of multinational corporation Bunge Limited, and a leading oilseed processor, corn dry miller, and U.S. exporter of soybeans and soybean-derived products. To extract oil from soybeans or corn, Bunge and its subsidiaries use volatile organic solvents. Emissions of VOCs result because some of the solvent escapes to the atmosphere. NOx, SO2 and PM are emitted when fuel is burned to provide heat for the process; additional PM is emitted by handling and preparation of the soybeans or corn.

Once fully implemented, the settlement will cause Bunge and its subsidiaries to reduce their emissions of harmful air pollutants as follows:

The emission reduction projects will cost an estimated $12 million. Bunge will also pay a $625,000 civil penalty, which will be divided among the federal government and the eight states. In addition, Bunge will spend more than $1.25 million to implement supplemental environmental projects which go beyond mere compliance to achieve additional environmental benefits. The supplemental projects, which were selected by and will be supervised by the eight states, include removal of mercury, lead or asbestos from schools in Louisiana, providing hazardous materials response equipment and training in Illinois and Mississippi, providing environmental education in Kansas, abatement of residential lead contamination in Illinois, and retrofitting diesel school buses or other diesel vehicles in Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa and Alabama.
The Department of Justice lodged the consent decree today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Urbana in the judicial district and division where the Danville plants are located.

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September 1, 2005

Federal, Multi-State Clean Air Act Settlement with Cargill, Inc., Secures Major Pollution Reductions
The Department of Justice and EPA announced a multi-state Clean Air Act settlement with Cargill, Inc. (Cargill), which will result in a reduction of approximately 30,000 tons of pollution a year and set new standards for limiting harmful emissions from specialty oilseed plants. Cargill is a multi-state agribusiness that owns and operates 27 plants which process corn, wheat, soybeans, and other oilseeds into value-added products used in the food, feed, and ethanol industries. This settlement allows for 81% of uncontrolled ethanol production capacity to be under consent decrees. The government's complaint, filed in federal district court in Minnesota, alleges that Cargill had significantly underestimated emissions from its operations in 13 states. Under the settlement, Cargill is required to install air pollution control devices at its 27 corn and oilseed processing facilities and is expected to spend an estimated $130 million to meet the requirements of the consent decree. Cargill will also pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million and spend $3.5 million on environmental projects across the country.

Ten states and four counties have joined the federal government in today's settlement: Alabama; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Missouri; Nebraska; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee; Montgomery County, Ohio; and Linn and Polk Counties, Iowa. The civil penalty and environmental project monies will be shared with the participating states and counties. "All Americans benefit when large corporations agree to bring their facilities into compliance with our nation's environmental laws," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson, of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The settlement is positive proof of the continued progress we are achieving with the grain industry, through the cooperative enforcement efforts of federal, state, and local agencies."

The settlement calls for broad sweeping environmental improvements at all nine of Cargill's corn processing plants, significantly advancing recent efforts by the government to bring the ethanol industry into compliance. With the lodging of the consent decree, 81 percent of uncontrolled ethanol production capacity will now be under settlement agreements to install air pollution control technologies to reduce emissions. The new technology standards established by this initiative apply to all ethanol plants now under construction. Ethanol is primarily a product of industrial corn and has been increasingly used as an automobile fuel alone or blended with gasoline. Ethanol's high oxygen content allows automobile engines to better combust fuel, resulting in reduced tail pipe emissions. The installation of air pollution controls at ethanol plants across the country will ensure that this fuel can be made cleanly.

Cargill's corn processing plants are significant sources of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) and carbon monoxide (CO). In addition to contributing to ground-level ozone (smog), VOC's can cause serious health problems such as cancer and other effects; CO is harmful because it reduces oxygen delivery to the body's organs and tissues. Cargill's oilseed plants emit a hazardous air pollutant, n-hexane, and are sources of VOC pollution. "Cargill is following others in this industry by installing the appropriate controls and greatly reducing its air emissions, resulting in cleaner, healthier air," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This agreement will improve the environment and at the same time create a level playing field in the industry."

Under the settlements, the corn processing plants are required to install or enhance thermal oxidizers and scrubbers that will reduce VOC emissions up to 98 percent, or 10,450 tons per year, and will reduce CO emissions by 10,900 tons per year--the equivalent of taking 1.16 million and 157,000 cars off the road each year, respectively. The settlement also will result in annual reductions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 1,350 tons, sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 2,250 tons per year, and additional reductions in particulate matter (PM) and hazardous air pollutants. The oilseed processing plants will meet more stringent limits for HAP and VOC emissions to reduce allowable emissions by more than 2,300 tons per year. New limits for these plants will, in some instances, be as much as 50 percent lower than current regulatory standards in the industry.

The United States initiated enforcement action against Cargill with the issuance of notices of violation against two oilseed plants in 2002 and all nine corn mill plants in 2003. This settlement comes three years after federal and state agreements with 12 Ethanol Plants in Minnesota and the April 2003 settlement with Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill's largest competitor in this industry. Under the settlement, Cargill will spend $3.5 million on environmental projects, which include funding for the Mid-South Clean Air Coalition Diesel Retrofit Program in Tennessee, as well as wetland restoration projects in Iowa and Nebraska. The agreement has resulted from the combined enforcement efforts of many state and local entities whose participation in this federal action was instrumental in obtaining the quality of the settlement at hand.

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September 8, 2004

EPA Fines Arizona Fertilizer Company $40,000 for Clean Air Act Violations
EPA fined an Arizona fertilizer company $40,000 for Clean Air Act violations at its nitric acid facility near Benson, Arizona. Apache Nitrogen Products, Inc. emitted high levels of nitrogen oxide during frequent startups at two of its units between 1999 and 2002. The facility's nitrogen oxide emission's during plant startup were often more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm). Normal operation emissions are typically less than 200 ppm. Facilities subject to the federal New Source Performance standards are required to minimize emissions at all times, including plant startups.

EPA discovered the violations after the community complained to regulatory agencies that highly visible plumes were coming from the facility when the units were starting up. "The action has a very real impact on the surrounding neighborhood and the environment," said Deborah Jordan, EPA's Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Apache Nitrogen must now properly operate and maintain a device that controls nitrogen oxide during startups at its facility." Apache Nitrogen installed an additional nitrogen oxide control device in early 2001 to control emissions during startup after EPA issued a finding of violation in September 2000. The new controls typically bring nitrogen oxide concentrations down to 200 ppm or less during plant startup.

The consent decree was filed with the District court of Arizona on Sept. 7. Under the consent decree, the company must continue to operate the new control device during plant startup, provide employee training and maintain the plans in an area accessible to employees. EPA also increased the company's reporting requirements to better monitor emissions during startup and shutdown. All of the requirements will be included in the plant's operating permit. Nitrogen oxides react in the atmosphere to form several pollutants that are detrimental to human health. These include fine particles (PM-2.5), ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. Reducing fine particle concentrations alone will reduce over 15,000 of excess deaths due to pollution in the U.S. annually.

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August 26, 2004

EPA Fines Arizona Fertilizer Supply Companies $14,910
EPA fined four Arizona fertilizer companies a total of $14,910 for failing to develop and implement procedures aimed at safeguarding the community from chemicals stored at their facilities. Fertizona-Yuma, Fertizona-Coolidge, Fertizona-San Tan, and Fertizona-Casa Grande stored anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous chemical, in quantities over 10,000 pounds. The facilities failed to ensure that all elements of their risk management program, as required under the Clean Air Act, had been prepared and implemented. "These facilities manage a hazardous chemical that poses a real threat to human health," said Keith Takata, EPA's Superfund Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Companies have a responsibility to the surrounding community and emergency responders to manage these chemicals properly." EPA discovered the violations through routine surveillance of facilities in the area and in coordination with the Arizona State Emergency Response Commission.

Anhydrous ammonia is classified by the Clean Air Act and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration as a hazardous chemical, and can cause severe burns from freezing and corrosion. Exposure to anhydrous ammonia may cause eye damage and ulceration on contact with lungs and skin. A federal risk management program requires companies to prepare and implement written procedures to ensure that the risk posed by a chemical used, stored or produced at the facility are managed safely where quantities exceed a certain amount and there is a risk of off-site impact from a release.

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July 14, 2004

Meat Processing Plant Faces Civil Penalties for Inadequate Risk Management Planning at Manchester, NH, Facility
An enforcement action has been filed by EPA against Tyson Foods, Inc., for violations of the Clean Air Act at a meat processing facility in Manchester, NH. EPA is seeking a civil penalty of $35,387. Tyson Foods has owned the Manchester facility since September 2001. The facility, which Tyson Foods closed in February 2004, used anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant in its meat processing systems. Anhydrous ammonia is a regulated toxic substance under various federal environmental statutes and is considered extremely hazardous under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

Under the Clean Air Act, any facility containing more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia is required to submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to EPA that assesses the hazards associated with using the chemical, implements an accident prevention program, and outlines a plan for emergency response in the event of an accidental release. The enforcement action cites Tyson Foods for failing to submit a timely and complete RMP for the Manchester facility, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The RMP eventually submitted to EPA significantly underestimated the off-site consequences of a worst-case release of anhydrous ammonia and contained piping and instrumentation diagrams that lacked sufficient detail about critical components of the refrigeration system. Consequently, Tyson Foods risked being unable to coordinate an effective response to an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia.

"In this era of heightened security concerns, it is imperative that facilities managing and using hazardous materials do so with vigilant attention to all legal and safety requirements,” said Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office. While under the ownership of Jac Pac Foods, the Manchester facility had an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia on July 11, 2000, which triggered a significant emergency response operation and resulted in the treatment of two employees for exposure to ammonia fumes. Jac Pac Foods failed to report the release immediately to the National Response Center. Tyson was aware of this history when it acquired the Manchester facility in September 2001.

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April 15, 2004

Multistar Industries Named in Complaint for Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Violations
EPA has filed a civil administrative complaint, including a $20,000 proposed penalty, against Multistar Industries of Othello, WA. The complaint alleges that Multistar failed to file a Risk Management Plan (RMP) and provide annual inventories of hazardous chemicals to the local fire department, State Emergency Response Commission and Local Emergency Planning Committee, as required under federal law. Multistar operates a bulk anhydrous ammonia distribution facility, which supplies anhydrous ammonia to customers for refrigeration and agricultural purposes. Ammonia arrives at the facility by railcar and is stored on site in amounts between 40,000 and 360,000 pounds. The facility is located near homes and businesses; residents and employees are at risk in the event of a release of ammonia from the facility.

Facilities that handle large quantities of ammonia are required to file an RMP with EPA and file timely reports with local fire districts and state and local emergency planning and preparedness groups. If there is an accidental or other release or spill at the facility, good reporting practices help ensure that local responders won't be jeopardized by unknown substances when they enter the premises. The information is also used to make decisions regarding the possible evacuation of surrounding populations in the event of an accidental release of ammonia.

Because Multistar certified to EPA that ammonia quantities at the facility fluctuate between 40,000 and 360,000 pounds and have been onsite in amounts over 10,000 pounds every month since June 1999, Multistar was required to submit an RMP by June 21, 1999. EPA did not receive Multistar's RMP by that date. When Multistar finally submitted a plan in February 2004 EPA determined that it was incomplete and inadequate.

EPA further alleges that Multistar failed to submit required hazardous chemical inventory reports to the State Emergency Response Commission, Local Emergency Planning Committee, and local fire department for the years 2001 and 2002, in violation of the federal Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act. "It's easy to scoff at these as 'paperwork' violations," says EPA's John Iani, "but in today's world, being strictly accountable when handling large volumes of extremely hazardous chemicals is very serious. Responsible companies make it their business to know the law and ensure compliance at their facilities."

Although EPA normally proposes much larger penalties for these types of violations, EPA proposed a reduced penalty based on its evaluation of Multistar's ability to pay such an amount. After considering the gravity and duration of the violations, as well as a host of other factors at the facility, EPA proposed a $20,000 penalty, based upon Multistar's inability to pay.

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July 18, 2001

EPA Cited Ashta Chemicals for Air Pollution Violations (PDF) (202 pp, 617K) (Scroll down to page 87)
In July 2001, EPA Region 5 filed an administrative complaint against Ashta Chemicals Inc. for alleged violations of federal and federally enforceable state clean-air regulations at the company's pesticide chemical plant in Ashtabula, Ohio. EPA proposed a $247,500 penalty for clean air violations. EPA complaint alleges that Ashta violated clean-air regulations by failing to:

"EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment," said Cheryl Newton, Acting Director of the Regional Air and Radiation Division. "We will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure compliance with clean-air regulations."  Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung diseases the most. Mercury can cause significant health problems if breathed or eaten. Chronic exposure can cause permanent central nervous system damage, fatigue and weight loss.

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