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News Releases from Region 01

Clean Air Act Settlement Reduces Air Emissions and Improves Chemical Safety at Rhode Island Biodiesel Plant

Contact Information: 
Dave Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice have settled an environmental enforcement case with Newport Biodiesel, Inc., resulting in reduced air emissions and improved safety controls at the company's biodiesel manufacturing plant in Newport, Rhode Island. EPA and DOJ alleged that Newport Biodiesel violated various Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements for hazardous air pollutants and chemical accident prevention, and also violated oil spill planning and chemical reporting requirements. Newport Biodiesel has corrected these violations and installed new air pollution control and safety equipment at its manufacturing facility. Under the settlement consent decree, which was lodged in federal district court today, the company will also pay a $396,000 fine.

Biodiesel is an environmentally important product, but commercial biodiesel manufacturing uses large amounts of methanol, which is a toxic and highly flammable liquid. Methanol requires special firefighting attention because it burns with little visible flame and stays flammable even when mixed with large quantities of water. Methanol is also listed as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Consequently, it is vital that biodiesel manufacturers fully comply with CAA emission and chemical safety requirements.

When EPA began this enforcement action in 2013, the Newport Biodiesel facility had no control system for its methanol emissions. In 2014, EPA and Newport Biodiesel signed an administrative order on consent (AOC) in which the company agreed to comply with CAA hazardous air pollution standards and control its methanol emissions. Under the AOC, Newport Biodiesel designed and installed a new emissions control system that began operating in December 2015. These controls will reduce the facility's methanol emissions by about 15 tons per year. Under today's judicial settlement, Newport Biodiesel will conduct performance testing to confirm the proper operation of these controls.

During this enforcement action, Newport Biodiesel also installed a new fire suppression system to comply with the CAA's chemical accident prevention provisions, which include a general duty clause requiring that facilities be designed to prevent and mitigate chemical accidents. Previously, there was no automatic fire suppression in the company's main manufacturing building. Newport Biodiesel worked with local fire officials to develop an appropriate fire suppression system for the facility. The new system was installed and began operating in December 2015.

Today's settlement concludes the first civil judicial action against a biodiesel manufacturer for violations of CAA hazardous air pollutant regulations and chemical accident prevention standards. EPA and DOJ's enforcement action and Newport Biodiesel's cooperation throughout the case has resulted in improved safety at the company's facility and cleaner air for the surrounding Newport community.

Apart from the CAA violations, Newport Biodiesel also violated Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act reporting requirements by failing to file certain chemical inventory forms with emergency response authorities, and violated Clean Water Act regulations by failing to prepare and implement an oil spill prevention and control plan. These violations were corrected in 2013-14.

More information:

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the District of Rhode Island, is subject to a public comment requirements and court review and approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website (www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees).

EPA info on Clean Air Act General Duty Clause guidance for chemical accident prevention (PDF) (55 pp, 735 K, About PDF)

EPA info on Clean Air Act hazardous air pollutant regulations for Miscellaneous Organic Chemical Manufacturing (MON regulation)