Verizon Wireless has just agreed to pay $468,600 in civil penalty to EPA for a series of violations uncovered in its corporate wide audit at 655 facilities in 42 states. Here is a link to EPA’s press release.
A corporate audit agreement is an agreement that allows corporations, universities or other organizations with many facilities to plan corporate-wide or facility-wide audits with an advance understanding between the entity and EPA regarding schedules for conducting the audit and disclosing violations. EPA factors in the companies’ cooperation and willingness to do the audit voluntarily, and the penalties are typically lower than if the same violations were discovered through enforcement.
Some of the violations that Verizon uncovered included failure to prepare SPCC plans, failure to obtain air permits and failure to file Tier II reports.
Bob Davis wrote an excellent article in the November 2009 issue of Pollution Engineering magazine. (Full disclosure: I write a column there every two months). It is called “10 steps to avoid air fines”. A few of his compliance tips (in italics) are worth repeating here followed by my own commentaries:
- When it comes to ensuring compliance, make everyone responsible. Hallelujah! Make someone responsible for reviewing the air permit – or any permit for that matter. It is amazing how many people spend oodles of money getting a permit and then just file it away in the desk draw without reading it. It is critical that you read and understand the requirements of your own permit. Don’t wait for an inspector to review it for you.
- Follow the EPA online and stay informed on regulatory actions. One good way to do that is to sign up for EPA (and state agency’s) mailing lists. They are FREE and will keep you posted on the latest regulatory requirements.
- Quiz vendors on potential problems that could lead to trouble. If a vendor tells you his equipment is the best thing since sliced bread, tell him to back it up with full indemnification in writing. In other words, if his wonderful machine causes a violation, he pays your fine.
- Practice vigilance when selecting a stack tester. That is excellent advice. Make sure the tester has good working relationship with the agency that will be reviewing the test results. Talk to the regulatory agency BEFORE hiring the tester. If the tester has a questionable reputation, the regulators will let you know in one way or another. They may not come right out and tell you. But you will sense it.
- Get to know the inspectors and do not hesitate to ask them for guidance. That is good advice up to a point. If you have a good working relationship with your inspector, he/she will offer you guidance unofficially. Many agencies specifically prohibit their inspectors from offering consulting advice to the regulated communities. Do not count on your inspectors as your free consultants. Back to the first point – you need to know your own permit conditions.
It is becoming increasing clear that the Democrats in Congress will not be able to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass a Climate Change Bill. They need support from the other side (Republicans) to get the bill through and none is forthcoming thus far.
On October 11, 2009, Senators John Kerry (D – Mass) and Lindsey Graham (R- SC) wrote an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. In this piece, one of the paragraphs stated that : ‘We agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.’
It went on to say that nuclear power must be added to the mix of renewable energy and there should be a push to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
There is now a possibility that there will be a truly bi-partisan bill on this issue if Lindsey Graham gets onboard. Many Republican Senators will support a bill with Lindsey Graham’s name on it.
On November 5, 2009, EPA Administrator signed off on the final amendments to the SPCC (Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures) rules. These final revisions are made to the December 2008 amendments. The final rules modify the December 2008 rule by removing the provisions to: exclude farms and oil production facilities from the loading/unloading rack requirements; exempt produced water containers at an oil production facility; and provide alternative qualified facilities eligibility criteria for an oil production facility.
For details, click here for the full text of the final rules.
By the way, the fact that these latest revisions “remove” certain exclusions and exemptions previously provided in the 2008 amendments is another example of the reversal of Bush rules undertaken by the Obama Administration.