Companies Pay $7 Billion in EPA Enforcement Actions


by | Dec 17, 2015

smogEPA enforcement actions in 2015 cost companies more than $7 billion, requiring them to invest in equipment to control pollution and clean up contaminated sites, according to the agency’s annual enforcement results.

In fiscal year 2015, the EPA secured record-setting hazardous waste, Clean Air Act, and Superfund settlements. It also pursued a $20.8 billion final settlement against BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and launched an investigation against Volkswagen for illegally emitting air pollution from diesel vehicles.

The EPA says its cases resulted in $404 million in combined federal administrative, civil judicial penalties, and criminal fines. Other results include:

  • Reductions of an estimated 430 million pounds of air pollutants.
  • Almost $2 billion in commitments from responsible parties to clean up Superfund sites.
  • More than $39 million invested in environmental projects that provide direct benefits to communities harmed by pollution.

Some of the cases:

  • Mosaic Fertilizer committed to ensuring the proper treatment, storage, and disposal of an estimated 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste at eight facilities across Florida and Louisiana, the largest amount of hazardous waste ever covered by a federal or state Resource Conservation and Recovery Act settlement.
  • A Clean Air Act settlement with Hyundai-Kia netted a record $100 million penalty, forfeiture of emissions credits, and more than $50 million invested in compliance measures to help level the playing field for responsible companies, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions fueling climate change.
  • Noble Energy will use advanced monitoring technologies to detect air pollution problems in real-time, and ensure proper operation and maintenance of pollution control equipment at its facilities in Colorado.

Additionally, the EPA’s criminal program secured $4 billion in court-ordered environmental projects, generated $200 million in fines and restitution, and sentenced defendants to a combined 129 years of incarceration.

One example of this: three subsidiaries of Duke Energy, the largest energy utility in the US, agreed to pay a $68 million criminal fine and spend $34 million on environmental projects and land conservation to benefit rivers and wetlands in North Carolina and Virginia. As part of the plea, two Duke subsidiaries will ensure they can meet legal obligations to remediate coal ash impoundments within North Carolina, which will cost an estimated $3.4 billion.

Other EPA enforcement work to reduce pollution in 2015 included:

  • Settlements with Interstate Power and Light, Duke Energy and power companies in Arizona and New Mexico are cutting coal fired power plant emissions, requiring companies to control pollution, and conduct innovative projects that promote renewable energy development and energy efficiency practices.
  • Cal-Maine Foods, one of the nation’s largest egg producers, is implementing a series of measures to comply with laws that control pollutants, including nutrients and bacteria, from being discharged into waterways.
  • XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the nation’s largest holder of natural gas reserves, will restore eight sites in West Virginia damaged when streams and wetlands were filled to build roads, and implement a plan to comply with water protection laws.
  • Through settlements with three Nevada gold mining operations, Newmont, Barrick and Veris, the EPA ensured that over 180 million pounds of mercury containing RCRA hazardous waste were treated, minimized, or properly disposed.
  • The largest bankruptcy-related cleanup settlement in American history, with Anadarko and Kerr McGee, will put more than $4.4 billion into toxic pollution cleanup, improving water quality and removing dangerous materials in tribal and overburdened communities.

Photo Credit: smog via Shutterstock

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