More heavy fines for US polluters

A company which added hazardous waste to its petrol and a polluting Texan refinery have both agreed to pay huge civil penalties and take steps to mitigate their environmental impact.

Unlike the European model, where polluters usually face criminal charges and a modest fine, the USA tends to rely on civil cases which require a much lower burden of evidence and often lead to staggeringly high financial settlements.

In its latest high-profile cases the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tackled Kinder Morgan Transmix Co for mixing solvents classified as toxic waste with gasoline it was producing and oil giant Total for alleged violations of air quality regulations at a refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

The EPA became involved in the Kinder Morgan case in 2004 after a series of complaints from hundreds of motorists about stalling vehicles.

The vehicles had stalled due to clogged fuel filters after a Kinder Morgan facility in Indianola, Pennsylvania had been blending spent solvents with gasoline which was then being sold to the public.

“Illegally adding hazardous waste to gasoline can injure people’s health and foul our environment,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

“The fuel requirements of the Clean Air Act are a critical part of EPA’s program to reduce air pollution, and today’s action serves to underscore that we are protecting public health.”

Kinder Morgan agreed to pay the EPA $600,000 in civil penalties.

In the Total Petrochemicals case, the oil giant agreed to pay $2.9 million in penalties and upgrade pollution control and monitoring at its Port Arthur refinery, which will cost the company an estimated $37 million.

The case was part of an on-going investigation of environmental standards at all of the major refinieries in the US.

“This settlement is another success in EPA’s overall effort to reduce refinery pollution,” said Mr Nakayama.

“With today’s settlement, 86 refineries in 25 states across the nation have agreed to address environmental problems and invest more than $4.5 billion in new pollution control technologies.”

More information on the Kinder Morgan Transmix settlement can be found here while details of the Total settlement can be found here.

Sam Bond

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