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Ontario: Fertilizer Producer fined $90,000 for Ammonia Spill

Terra International (Canada) Inc., was recently was convicted of one offence under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and was fined $90,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $22,500. The conviction stems from an incident that occurred on August 11, 2016 when the company reported an ammonia gas release to the Ontario Environment Ministry’s Spills Action Centre. It was subsequently determined that approximately 8.57 tonnes of liquid ammonia was released and contained, which resulted in a release of 997 kilograms of ammonia gas to the air over a two-hour period.

The ammonia release resulted in various adverse effects including the closure of nearby roads for approximately one hour. In addition, two reports were received alleging odours, with one of those alleging irritation; a third report alleged irritation, nausea and difficulty breathing; and employees at one neighbouring company reported evacuating for approximately two hours.

Upon discovery of the ammonia gas release, personnel from Terra conducted a root cause analysis which concluded that a previously unknown mechanical deficiency in an ammonia pump resulted in the failure of a vent pipe containing liquid ammonia.

Terra International (Canada) Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of CF Industries and operates a facility in St. Clair Township, Ontario (30 km south of Sarnia, Ontario) where it produces ammonia and urea products. To produces up to 1.0 million tons of nitrogen products for agricultural and industrial use each year. Approximately 200 people work at the facility.

U.S. EPA fines for polluters at lowest level in two decades

As reported in Reuters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued $72 million in civil penalties to polluters last year, the lowest level in at least two decades when adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis of agency data.

A similar report by VOX in 2018, stated that a February 2018 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a watchdog group that advocates for enforcement of environmental laws, the amount of fines collected in 2017 by the EPA plummeted compared to the agency under the past three presidents in their first year in office, as seen below. 

(Credit: Christina Animashaun)

Environmental advocates called the level of fines a symptom of the Trump administration’s pro-fossil-fuel agenda. The EPA rejected that assertion and said it was using “all the tools” at its disposal to deter pollution.

The analysis, conducted by President Barack Obama’s former EPA assistant administrator, Cynthia Giles, and first reported by the Washington Post, showed civil fines for polluters during 2018 at $72 million, the lowest level since at least 1994.

Over the previous 20 years, EPA had issued a wide range of fine totals, ranging from a low of $86 million in 2007 to over $6 billion during Obama’s final year in office – a massive outlier because of a settlement the EPA finalized with BP (BP.L) over its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The median level of the EPA’s annual fines during that period was about $155 million, according to the data, which Giles shared with Reuters.

The EPA said it was not giving polluters any breaks, and cited a recent $305 million settlement with Fiat Chrysler (FCAU.N) over emissions violations.

“Let there be no mistake — EPA enforcement will continue to correct non-compliance using all the tools at its disposal, including imposing civil penalties to maintain a level playing field and deter future misconduct,” said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

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.