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Couple admits illegally storing 4,500 tons of hazardous waste in warehouse

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a husband and wife recently plead guilty to a U.S. federal charge and admitted improperly transporting 4,500 tons of hazardous waste and storing it in a warehouse near St. Louis, Missouri.

The couple, both in their 60’s, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to a misdemeanor charge of placing someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury from a hazardous waste.

Green Materials LLC facility in Missouri (Photo Credit: Robert Patrick, Post Dispatch)

Their company, Missouri Green Materials LLC, Missouri Green Materials LLC stored a large quantity of spent sandblasting materials inside a warehouse located in the town of Berger, approximately 70 miles west of St. Louis.  They couple admitted that they arranged for the transport and storage of the hazardous waste from Mississippi, and failed to tell both the trucking companies that hauled the waste and the personnel that unloaded it of the danger.  Their storage facility was not properly permitted was not registered as a permitted hazardous waste storage or recycling facility.

The sandblasting waste materials are considered to be hazardous because they contain amounts of certain metals, including cadmium, that exceed regulatory limits established by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).

The materials were stored in a warehouse in a flood plain for more than four years.  There are no indications of any release of the materials from the warehouse.

The couple have agreed to pay $1.5 million to the U.S. EPA for the costs of dealing with the waste. They could face probation or a sentence of six months behind bars for the crime under federal sentencing guidelines.

The source of the sandblasting waste was for a site in Mississippi.  An Ohio company, U.S. Technology Corp had been buried the waste.  The company was repeatedly ordered by regulators to remove it.

In 2016, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Technology signed a consent agreement whereby the company agreed to remove the waste from Green Material’s facility in Missouri and test the site for soil contamination.  According to prosecutors, this work was never performed.

U.S. Technology and president Raymond Williams, 71, both pleaded not guilty in the case. A hearing has been scheduled to change both pleas later in June.

Some sandblasting waste is classified as hazardous

U.S. EPA Hazardous Waste Enforcement in Wisconsin

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) and Kerry Biofunctional Ingredients, Inc. d/b/a Kerry Bio Sciences (“Kerry”) recently entered a Consent Agreement (“CA”) addressing alleged violations of Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and its regulations implementing requirements for the management of hazardous waste. See Docket Number : RCRA-02-2017-7108.

Kerry is a subsidiary of Kerry, Inc. whose North American Headquarters is situated in Beloit, Wisconsin.

The CA provides that Kerry operates a facility in Norwich, New York (“Facility”) that has been a generator of hazardous waste.

As a result of the July 2016 inspection and Kerry’s response to the Request for Information, the Facility is alleged to have failed to:

  1. Make hazardous wastes determinations for certain waste-streams found at the Facility
  2. Keep a complete copy of each hazardous waste manifest for at least three years
  3. Meet the conditions necessary to accumulate hazardous waste without having obtained a permit or qualifying for interim status

Such alleged failures are stated to be violations of the RCRA regulations.

The CA assesses a civil penalty of $20,000.

A copy of the CA can be downloaded here.

Kerry Headquarters, Ireland

New Brunswick Southern Railway pleads not guilty to charges related to oil transport

As reported by the CBC, New Brunswick Southern Railway has pleaded not guilty to 24 charges related to the transportation of oil.  Defence lawyer Catherine Lahey entered the pleas on the Irving-owned company’s behalf during a brief appearance in Saint John provincial court on earlier this month.

The charges against the railway, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., stem from a Transport Canada investigation triggered by the 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., prosecutors have said.  Twelve of the charges under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act relate to failing to create proper shipping documents for the purpose of transporting petroleum crude oil.  The other 12 charges relate to having unqualified personnel handling dangerous goods — crude oil.

The offences are all alleged to have occurred between Nov. 3, 2012, and July 5, 2013, at or near Saint John.  Irving Oil would have imported about 14,000 cars of crude for its Saint John refinery during that period.

New Brunswick Southern Railway is part if NBM Railways, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., which also includes Cavendish Farms, Kent Building Supplies and Irving Pulp & Paper.

A trial date will be set on June 4.  Judge David Walker said the Crown is expecting to take about three weeks to present its case.  There is no word on how long the defence will take.  Pleas were delayed last month because the defence was still in the process of receiving an estimated 9,000 disclosure documents from the Crown.

The rail cars full of crude that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013 were destined for Irving Oil’s refinery in Saint John. (CBC)

In October 2017, Irving Oil was ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to 34 charges under the same act.  Those charges related to failing to properly classify the crude oil it transported by train and inadequately training its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods.

The crude oil in the derailed rail cars that exploded in Lac-Mégantic was destined for Irving’s refinery in Saint John.

New Brunswick Southern Railway, along with its sister railways — Maine Northern Railway and Eastern Maine Railway — operates 883 kilometres of railway in New Brunswick and Maine.

Quebec Town Fined $100,000 for Violating Canadian PCB Regulations

Earlier this year, the Town of Amos, located in northwestern Quebec, pleaded guilty in court to one charge and was fined $100,000 for violating the PCB Regulations, thereby committing an offence under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

Amos is located 110 km northeast of Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Québec. The Town has a population of 13,000.  Its main resources are spring water, gold, and wood products, including paper.

Charges were laid against the Town of Amos after an investigation conducted by staff from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) showed that, in April 2015, the Town of Amos sold products containing PCBs in a concentration of 50 mg/kg or more, which is in violation of the PCB Regulations.

The amount of the fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

What are PCBs?

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) are a group of man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms. The number of chlorine atoms and their location in a PCB molecule determine many of its physical and chemical properties.  Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including:

  • Electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment
  • Plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products
  • Pigments, dyes and carbonless copy paper
  • Other industrial applications

Although no longer commercially produced in North America, PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before the 1979 PCB ban. Products that may contain PCBs include:

  • Transformers and capacitors
  • Electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, re-closers, bushings, and electromagnets
  • Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems
  • Old electrical devices or appliances containing PCB capacitors
  • Fluorescent light ballasts
  • Cable insulation
  • Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork
  • Adhesives and tapes
  • Oil-based paint
  • Caulking
  • Plastics
  • Carbonless copy paper
  • Floor finish

The PCBs used in these products were chemical mixtures made up of a variety of individual chlorinated biphenyl components known as congeners. Most commercial PCB mixtures are known in the North America by their industrial trade names, the most common being Arochlor.

Canadian Government’s Role in the Management of PCBs?

Health Canada and Environment Canada have taken strong and effective steps under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to control the use, importation, manufacture, storage and release of PCBs.

CEPA states that PCBs are toxic, and Environment Canada is working on revisions to CEPA that would further strengthen controls over all PCBs in service or in storage anywhere in Canada.

The Government has also established regulations regarding hazardous wastes and has signed a number of international agreements, such as the Canada-USAgreement on PCBs, and the Basel Convention, which are all aimed at the safe use, storage, transport and disposal of PCBs, both nationally and internationally.

In addition, Health Canada continues to monitor the amount of PCBs in food, air and water to ensure that Canadians are not exposed to levels that pose a health risk. Health Canada also tracks and assesses ongoing research about the health effects of exposures to PCBs.

U.S. EPA Guidance Documents Are Not Enforceable Rules Says DOJ

by Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. and Russell V. Randle at Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

Companies regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) have long complained that U.S. EPA too often uses guidance documents improperly, both to expand regulatory requirements beyond what the law permits and to avoid judicial review of such expansions. Moreover, regulated parties often argue that the U.S. EPA rigidly enforces such guidance as binding federal rules, but ignores such guidance when it likes. Without expressly referencing the U.S. EPA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has now taken action that will make it harder for such alleged misuse to occur, whether by the U.S. EPA or by other agencies whose rules the DOJ enforces in federal civil cases through civil penalties and injunctive relief.

Guidance documents serve an essential role in environmental regulation, given the great complexity of the ecosystems to be protected and the intricacies of the industries regulated. The U.S. EPA often publishes policy and guidance documents to clarify enforcement authority, to encourage compliance, and to offer the official interpretation or view on specific issues. Over time, these policies and guidance documents have become a key tool in the DOJ’s enforcement toolbox. DOJ attorneys have used non-compliance with these policies and documents as evidence that the underlying regulation or statute has been violated.

Regulated parties have long objected to this practice because, unlike the underlying regulations, these guidance documents seldom are subject to the notice-and-comment procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) or judicial review before an enforcement case is brought, when a challenge to the EPA interpretation is a very high stakes gamble.

On January 25, 2018, the DOJ offered the regulated community some relief from this practice. Ironically, it did so in a Policy Memorandum – a guidance document – entitled, “Limiting Use of Agency Guidance Documents in Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases.” This policy memo prohibits DOJ attorneys from relying on agency guidance documents as the sole basis for their civil enforcement actions. In other words, DOJ attorneys can no longer bring enforcement actions that require compliance with agency policy and guidance in lieu of clearly articulated requirements in properly promulgated and binding federal rules. The Policy Memorandum’s impact across various regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and tax will differ and remains uncertain; however, we see a particularly significant effect on DOJ’s ability to enforce environmental regulations and statutes administered by the U.S. EPA.

What does the Policy Memorandum say?

The Policy Memorandum memorializes what the regulated community has argued for many years – that “[g]uidance documents cannot create binding requirements that do not already exist by statute or regulation” – and provides a list of how DOJ attorneys may and may not use agency guidance in future and pending affirmative civil enforcement actions. According to the Policy Memorandum, DOJ may not:

  • Use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules;
  • Use noncompliance with guidance documents as a basis for proving violations of applicable law in civil enforcement cases; and
  • Treat a party’s noncompliance with an agency guidance document as presumptively or conclusively establishing that the party violated the applicable statute or regulation.

The Policy Memorandum does not impose an absolute bar against using agency guidance; instead, DOJ attorneys may “continue to use agency guidance documents for proper purposes in such cases.” For example, guidance documents are often used as evidence that a regulated party had “requisite knowledge of the mandate.” This use is expressly still allowed. So is the use of guidance documents that simply explain or paraphrase the legal requirements in the four corners of the existing statutes or regulations, as long as the guidance doesn’t create new requirements.

What does the Policy Memorandum mean for the regulated community?

In practice, the new policy may reduce the use of civil enforcement actions to advance new EPA policy interpretations, interpretations which typically push the boundaries of the U.S. EPA’s legal authority. This effect may be particularly noticeable in connection with claimed violations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

Enforcement under these statutes relies heavily on thousands of pages of the U.S. EPA guidance documents. The interpretations of these guidance documents are often a moving target because very few have been subject to comment by the regulated community and the public or judicial review, as DOJ routinely argues that they are not “really” binding or justiciable.

The Superfund program, in particular, relies upon guidance documents to flesh out its requirements for removal and remedial work, rather than relying upon rules established under APA procedures. The government will have a more difficult time arguing that violations of EPA guidance constitutes a violation of CERCLA requirements; in practice, such guidance often imposes very detailed and sometimes onerous requirements not mentioned in the statute or any implementing regulation.

Similarly, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Corps of Engineers are no longer relying upon the controversial 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States,” but instead rely upon guidance documents. The DOJ Policy Memorandum may have significant and unanticipated effects in that context, since the court decisions are divided as to what constitutes waters of the United States and what may constitute a jurisdictional wetland subject to permit requirements for dredge and fill work under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

It will also make it more difficult for DOJ to enforce settlement documents, consent decrees, and unilateral administrative orders since they are typically based on compliance with requirements discussed in dozens of EPA policies and guidance documents.

Although the DOJ Policy Memorandum does not address the U.S. EPA’s use of its own guidance documents in settlement discussions, in administrative enforcement proceedings, and when issuing notices of violations, DOJ’s announced unwillingness to rely upon the U.S. EPA guidance documents in subsequent civil enforcement actions should restrain such use, and force the U.S. EPA enforcement personnel to focus on clearer potential violations than in the past. That said, nothing in the Policy Memorandum prohibits a regulated party from citing agency guidance documents in its defense.

The Policy Memorandum is part of this Administration’s deregulatory agenda.

DOJ enforcement capability was already constrained by a November 16, 2017 “Prohibition of Improper Guidance Documents” which prevented DOJ from relying on its own published guidance documents. This policy memorandum issued by Attorney General Sessions prohibited DOJ attorneys from:

  • Issuing guidance documents that effectively create rights or obligations binding on the public without undergoing the notice-and-comment rulemaking process;
  • Creating binding standards by which DOJ will determine compliance with existing statutory or regulatory requirements; and
  • Using its guidance documents to coerce regulated parties into taking any action or refraining from taking any action beyond what is required by the terms of the applicable statute or lawful regulation.

It is no secret that the current Administration has set out a broader regulatory reform agenda focused on regulatory rollbacks to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens. The recent February 2018 Policy Memorandum is an extension of the limitations imposed by the November 16, 2017 memorandum, and follows on the heels of other regulatory reform measures such as the establishment of various reform task forces and Executive Order (EO) 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” which requires that any new incremental costs associated with a new regulation be offset by eliminating two existing regulations. Either by EO or by DOJ mandate, the current Administration continues to charge ahead with a deregulatory agenda that establishes less-restrictive rules for the regulated community.

Conclusion

As a result of this new policy, successful enforcement by the U.S. EPA and its enforcement counsel at DOJ will have to focus on clearer and it is hoped, more substantive violations of the U.S. EPA rules, and rely far less on requirements sought to be imposed by agency guidance documents. The impacts may be most pronounced in the Superfund and wetlands contexts, but will be a factor in almost every environmental regulatory program, given the complexity of these programs, and the undeniable need for agency guidance about practical implementation

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. The author has provided the links referenced above for information purposes only and by doing so, does not adopt or incorporate the contents. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS.

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About the Authors

Van P. Hilderbrand, Jr. is a member of Miles & Stockbridge  Products Liability & Mass Torts Practice Group.  He focuses his practice on environmental litigation, regulatory compliance issues, and advising on the environmental aspects of business and real estate transactions. His work also includes consulting on renewable energy project development and project finance transactions, conducting due diligence and assisting with permitting issues. He represents clients in a wide range of industries, including energy, manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, transportation, technology and real estate.

Formerly an associate with Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Washington, D.C., he previously practiced environmental law at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Russell V. Randle is a seasoned environmental and export control practitioner with decades of experience managing litigation, regulatory compliance and transactional due diligence for his clients.

He has extensive experience with Superfund and contaminated properties, including many on the National Priorities List. Russ also has handled numerous matters arising under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, as well as antimicrobial issues under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

In his export controls and sanctions practice, Russ covers the full spectrum of compliance, enforcement actions and audit issues related to defense trade, financial transfers and non-governmental organizations working in areas affected by U.S. sanctions.

 

This article was first published on the Miles & Stockbridge P.C. website.

Mining company in B.C. fined $200,000 for Failure to Sample Effluent

Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. (TSXV: BGM) was recently ordered to pay $200,000 after pleading guilty, in Provincial Court of British Columbia, to violations under the Canadian Fisheries Act related to the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations.

The fine was the result of routine inspections conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers at the Cariboo gold mine in Central British Columbia.  During inspections, it was revealed that the company failed to complete sampling, notify authorities of having deposited effluent into fish-bearing water without authorization, and submit reports on time.  The effluent was deposited into Lowhee Creek, part of the Willow River system—an important fish-bearing watershed.  The Metal Mining Effluent Regulations authorize deposits of effluent provided that conditions stipulated in the regulations are respected.

About Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. is focused on developing its extensive land package located in the historical Cariboo Mining District of central British Columbia. Barkerville’s mineral tenures cover 1,950 square kilometres along a strike length of 67 kilometres which includes several past producing hard rock mines of the historic Barkerville Gold Mining Camp near the town of Wells, British Columbia.

Drillers at Barkerville Gold Mines’ Cow Mountain gold project in the Cariboo mining district

Canadian company fined $100,000 for contravening dry-cleaning regulations

Recently, Dalex Canada Inc., located in Concord, Ontario, pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice to one count of contravening the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations made pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.  Dalex Canada Inc. was fined $100,000, which will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.  The Environmental Damages Fund is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Created in 1995, it provides a way to direct funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to projects that will benefit our natural environment.

Dalex Headquarters, Concord, Ontario

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers conducted inspections in 2014 and identified instances where tetrachloroethylene was being sold to owners and operators of dry-cleaning facilities who did not meet regulatory standards.  As a result of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s subsequent investigation, Dalex Canada Inc. pleaded guilty to selling tetrachloroethylene to an owner or operator of a dry-cleaning facility who was not in compliance with the regulations.  The regulations prohibit anyone from selling tetrachloroethylene to dry cleaners unless the dry-cleaning facility is compliant with certain sections of the regulations.

In addition to the fine, the court ordered Dalex Canada Inc. to publish an article in an industry publication, subject to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s approval.  Dalex Canada Inc. is also required to notify Environment and Climate Change Canada before resuming sales of the regulated product to dry cleaners. As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the federal Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as PERC, enters the environment through the atmosphere, where it can damage plants and find its way into ground water.