By Jeryl L. Olson, Meagan Newman and Craig B. Simonsen

112rEnforcementThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just released an Enforcement Alert on accidental releases of chemicals, including anhydrous ammonia at refrigeration facilities, under the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Chemical Accident Prevention Program.

This Enforcement Alert comes in seeming coordination with the EPA’s recent news release about several anhydrous ammonia Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) settlements where the alleged violators have “agreed to follow federal requirements when it comes to reporting the storage, handling, and accidental release of hazardous chemicals.”

The Agency noted in the Enforcement Alert that “recent” chemical releases stemming from CAA 112(r) violations at nine different refrigeration facilities have resulted in “property damage, numerous injuries and hospitalizations and several deaths.” As a result, EPA has imposed over $8.4 million in civil penalties and companies will spend approximately $10 million on supplemental environmental projects, including “purchasing equipment and providing training for emergency responders as well as converting refrigeration equipment to safer technologies.”

To assist regulated facilities in compliance, the Enforcement Alert highlights these relevant aspects of the Chemical Accident Prevention Program:

  • The Risk Management Program (RMP) Regulations, 40 CFR Part 68;
  • The General Duty Clause;
  • Industry Standards; and
  • Enforcement Focus on Accident Prevention.

The Enforcement Alert provides discussion and analyses on each on these highlighted aspects. Also provided is a “Lessons Learned” section.

Regulated facilities would do well to review company policies, systems, procedures, and training programs to assess their levels of compliance with the law in this area. You may be sure that if an EPA inspector arrives at your facility, she may be doing so as well.