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HERSHEY CREAMERY COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY AND PAYS $100,000 FINE FOR CLEAN AIR ACT VIOLATION - FIRST PROSECUTION IN THE COUNTRY FOR FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT CAA RISK MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
Release Date: 11/03/2008
Contact Information: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548
(PHILADELPHIA, November 3, 2008) Martin C. Carlson, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and David M. Dillon, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Philadelphia Area Office, announced today that a central Pennsylvania business has entered a guilty plea in federal court in what is the first prosecution of its type under the federal Clean Air Act. According to Mr. Carlson and SAC Dillon, the Hershey Creamery Company pled guilty today to a Clean Air Act felony involving its failure to develop and implement a Risk Management Program (RMP) at two of its facilities in Pennsylvania. The company was immediately sentenced to pay a $100,000 fine and placed on one year of probation. This is the first CAA prosecution involving RMPs in the country.
Hershey, a Pennsylvania ice cream manufacturer and distributor headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., entered the plea in federal court in Harrisburg. The CAA charge concerns the company’s failure to develop and implement a RMP concerning the storage and use of a regulated substance, anhydrous ammonia, between September 30, 2004 and April, 2007, after twice certifying to EPA that it had developed such a plan.
“Risk Management Programs are not simply ‘papers on a shelf,’” said Special Agent in Charge Dillon. “They protect workers, the community and the environment by reducing the likelihood and seriousness of a release of potentially harmful substances, and companies that do not take their obligations seriously will be prosecuted.”
United States Attorney Carlson also underscored the importance of this landmark prosecution: “We are all stewards of our environment. The Clean Air Act is an important measure protecting our environment, and the act’s requirement that businesses have appropriate Risk Management Programs is an essential aspect of this environmental stewardship mandated by law. This prosecution sends a vital message that these laws must be followed, and those who make false statements regarding their compliance with the law face serious criminal sanctions.”
Hershey uses refrigeration systems to manufacture and store ice cream at its plants in Harrisburg and Middletown, Pennsylvania. Anhydrous ammonia is a refrigerant used in food processing facilities, and Hershey stored and used approximately 42,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its plant in downtown Harrisburg not far from the state Capitol and approximately 23,000 pounds at the Middletown facility.
Anhydrous ammonia is regulated under the CAA because it is flammable and can irritate both the skin and eyes. The CAA regulations required Hershey to develop and implement a Risk Management Program for each facility to, among other things, protect worker safety, minimize the chance of a release from refrigeration processes at the facilities that would endanger workers and surrounding communities, and to develop and implement prevention and emergency response plans.
Hershey certified to EPA in 1999 and on September 30, 2004 that it had a RMP in place for both plants. However, a subsequent inspection by EPA concluded that the company lacked viable RMPs at either the Harrisburg or Middletown plants. After a follow up investigation, EPA issued Hershey a detailed CAA civil compliance order December 7, 2006, identifying specific areas where the company had failed to comply with RMP requirements. EPA ordered Hershey to develop and implement RMPs for both plants, with specific dates identified for compliance with major tasks. Hershey submitted RMPs satisfactory to the Agency in April, 2007. EPA has since inspected both facilities and found that the company was executing the RMPs satisfactorily.
This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the EPA Region 3 Office of Regional Counsel in Philadelphia. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case, with technical assistance provided by the Region 3 Oil and Prevention Branch. Mr. Carlson praised these agencies for their outstanding investigative efforts, which led to this ground-breaking federal prosecution. This case was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Bruce Brandler and EPA Associate Regional Counsel Martin Harrell. Special Agent in Charge Dillon commended Mr. Brandler and Mr. Harrell for their tireless efforts in this prosecution.