EPA Waives Fines for Seven Companies

EPA is waiving a potential $547,150 in penalties against\r\nseven companies -- six in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia -- after\r\nthey voluntarily disclosed and corrected chemical reporting\r\nviolations.

EPA said it is waiving a potential $547,150 in penalties against seven companies -- six in Pennsylvania and one in Virginia -- after they voluntarily disclosed and corrected chemical reporting violations.

Acting under EPA policies designed to encourage companies to police their own environmental compliance, EPA''s mid-Atlantic office is waiving penalties against the following companies: Carbone of America Industries, St. Mary''s, Pa.; Cerro Metal Products Inc., Bellefonte, Pa.; General Electric Power Systems/General Electric International (GEPS/GEI), Chesapeake, Va.; Electro-Platers of York Inc., Wrightsville, Pa.; Leading Technologies Inc., Leechburg, Pa.; SinterMet LLC, Kittanning, Pa.; and Uniform Tubes Inc., Collegeville, Pa.

"EPA wants to reward responsible corporate citizens who make good-faith efforts to protect the environment," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Thomas Voltaggio. "Companies can reduce or eliminate penalties by monitoring their own environmental compliance, promptly disclosing and correcting violations and acting to prevent future problems."

The penalty waivers announced involve violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the federal law requiring companies to file annual reports of releases of toxic chemicals.

The law requires companies that manufacture, process or use more than a threshold amount of regulated chemicals to report both routine and accidental releases of these chemicals.

EPA determined that four companies -- Carbone, GEPS/GEI, Leading Technologies and SinterMet -- qualified for penalty waivers under the agency''s audit policy.

This policy substantially reduces or eliminates penalties for violations discovered or corrected by a company on its own, excluding criminal acts or violations resulting in significant harm to public health or the environment.

The other three companies -- Cerro Metal Products, Electro-Platers of York and Uniform Tubes -- signed onto a nationwide EPA program to improve reporting releases of toxic nitrate compounds.

Under the National Nitrate Initiative, companies that neglected to report past releases of nitrate compounds could settle their past violations for penalties ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 if the would commit to a rigorous self-audit of their right-to-know compliance -- above and beyond the legal requirements.

In their self-audits, the companies discovered failures to file required reports on several toxic chemicals used or stored at their plants, including nitrate, copper and polycyclic aromatic compounds; hydrochloric acid, nickel, zinc and cobalt.

"EPA wants to reward responsible corporations who make good-faith efforts to protect the environment," said Voltaggio. "Companies can reduce or eliminate penalties by monitoring their own environmental compliance, promptly disclosing and correcting violations, and acting to prevent future problems."

Companies can also avoid substantial penalty liability by taking advantage of EPA''s audit policy, Voltaggio noted.

For example, if EPA had uncovered the violations involved, the companies would have faced potential penalties totaling $547,150.

As of December 2000, there have been more than 100 disclosures and EPA has reduced or waived nearly $3 million in penalties under the audit policy.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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