EPA Penalized for Polluting

Under the category you can’t make this stuff up, the September 3, 2021 Federal Register included a notice of a proposed settlement agreement, enforcement action alleging air pollution violations for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Edison New Jersey facility.  The federal agency responsible for compliance with environmental regulations did not comply with New Jersey boiler and emergency generator regulations.

According to the Federal Register notice:

“In November 2019, New Jersey conducted an inspection of EPA’s Edison facility and found several state law violations regarding EPA’s boilers and emergency generators. Based on

this inspection, and further information provided by EPA, New Jersey alleged the following types of violations:

  • Failure to seek new general permits when the boilers and emergency generators were replaced;
  • Operating the boilers and emergency generators with expired general permits;
  • Operating one emergency generator on five bad air days;
  • Operating one boiler on one bad air day; and
  • Improper tune-ups and/or tune-up report submission for two boilers.”

EPA delegates the responsibility to inspect facilities to the states upon approval of implementation plans. On a regular basis inspectors show up at the facility and go through the permits and records to make sure everything is being done correctly.  It appears that during the inspection when the boiler and emergency generator specifications were compared to the existing permits there was a discrepancy.  I can only imagine the consternation of the folks at EPA when it became obvious that someone had overlooked the rules.  This ended causing two violations: one for not getting a new permit and one for operating under an expired permit.  Those are paperwork violations that cause no harm to the environment. 

However, the inspection also found that EPA was not operating the units correctly and that does harm the environment.  In non-attainment areas, facilities are required to not operate emergency generators unless absolutely necessary on “bad air days”.  I am not sure exactly how “bad air days” are defined but I believe they are days when either the observed or projected air quality is close or exceeds a national ambient air quality standard.  In this instance it almost certainly represents nitrogen oxides emissions and the ozone ambient air quality standard.  Therefore, EPA could have contributed to a violation of the ozone standard.

In addition, facilities are required to maintain their emission sources and pollution control systems.  For a building boiler and emergency generator this requirement usually consists of regular tune-ups.  EPA did improper tune-ups so they violated this requirement.  In addition, because they did not report them correctly the presumption is that they did not do them correctly.

The Federal Register notice explains what happened once the problem was identified:

“EPA worked with New Jersey to bring the boilers and generators back into full compliance by the end of 2020. These steps included: (1) Obtaining new general permits, and setting up an

internal calendar to better track when to seek permit renewals; (2) changing a generator setting to require that generator testing be started manually, to avoid automatic startup on bad air days; (3) creating and revising a log sheet to ensure that staff check on ‘‘bad air day’’ status prior to testing the emergency generators; (4) conducting the 2020 tune-up using an outside contractor, with EPA staff attending for training purposes; and (5) submitting the 2020 tune-up reports via a New Jersey online reporting system.”

In order to resolve the problem, the notice says:

“EPA and New Jersey have now tentatively agreed on a proposed settlement agreement that would fully resolve the identified state law violations through payment of a $8,600 penalty, a penalty which would rise to a full penalty of $17,200 if EPA failed to pay that penalty on time. To the extent the alleged violations may have constituted violations of the CAA, EPA and New Jersey agree this proposed agreement would also constitute settlement of any claims New Jersey could have made under the CAA.”

In my experience on the industry side of air quality compliance this kind of thing occasionally happened.  Invariably it occurred when one side of the organization did not bother asking the in-house environmental professionals if there were any considerations when installing new equipment.  I had an instance when hosting an inspector where the facility was dumping waste outside with nothing to receive the material.  I think he was impressed that I was more upset than he was about the easily correctable problem.  The point is that the resolution of the problem is often up to the whim of the agency. 

It is delicious irony that the Federal agency in charge of compliance screwed things up.  In this instance there was little environmental harm.  The likely greatest impact was embarrassment that the agency failed to comply with the rules that they oversee.  Note, however, that if an environmental advocacy organization or a political appointee with a grudge became aware of something like this at an industrial facility, they could blow the impacts out of proportion and demand much higher fines.

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Tom Halla
September 5, 2021 6:05 am

Schadendfreude!

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 5, 2021 6:07 am

It’s Schadenfreude, du Schweinehund!

MarkW
September 5, 2021 6:11 am

Don’t they know that those laws were meant for the little people, not us.

fretslider
September 5, 2021 6:26 am

Death by committee

Very Stalin

Bill Powers
Reply to  fretslider
September 7, 2021 9:42 am

Committee: the mass embodiment of stupidity

bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 6:31 am

As they should. The Trump era EPA was incredibly cronyized, top down. That crept down to improper staffing at lower levels. EPA middle managers – those who should have prevented this – have been shook up, re-organized, and re-energized, after January.

2hotel9
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 7:13 am

Wow, you just blurt out lies like vomit. Your mother must be so proud.

MarkW
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 7:57 am

In what passes as your mind, prior to Trump, the EPA was as pure as the driven snow?

I don’t know if your hatred of all things to the right of Mao has totally rotted your mind, or if it just started out that way.

BTW, you are aware that below the level of director, everyone at the EPA is a career bureaucrat who can’t be fired by a president?

Rich Davis
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 9:04 am

Yes, you’re an idiot boob. We already knew that. Really not necessary to keep demonstrating it.

CZ&%
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 10:54 am

Please give us examples od TRUMP cronyism at the EPA. I’ll Wait.

bigoilbob
Reply to  CZ&%
September 5, 2021 1:58 pm

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/scott-pruitts-crimes-against-nature-195720/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/climate/scott-pruitt-epa-trump.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/under-scott-pruitt-a-year-of-tumult-and-transformation-at-epa/2017/12/26/f93d1262-e017-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html

There are dozens of stories like this. Pruitt is the original crony. After that, Pruitt but sycophants in charge of the regions. Worker bees could no longer do their jobs without pol interference. EPA morale – and efficacy – has soared since January.

MarkW
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 2:08 pm

Ah yes, Trump did something you disagree with. Therefor you have proven him to be corrupt.

I’m guessing that big oily boob actually believes that prior to Trump, all political appointees were completely independent of the president that appointed them.

bigoilbob
Reply to  MarkW
September 5, 2021 2:11 pm

I never called him corrupt, but only because that ship’s already sailed. There are a plethora of actions that demonstrate how corrupt he is. This was just one of them.

There are hundreds of such lists. I just picked the wik list because it is not paywalled.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Trump_administration_controversies

Last edited 15 days ago by bigoilbob
MarkW
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 6:22 pm

You haven’t demonstrated that any of the actions were corrupt. Just that they were disliked by you and your fellow socialists.

Ruleo
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 9:35 pm

I never called him corrupt

incredibly cronyized

You, could not, be this dumb…

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Ruleo
September 6, 2021 7:37 am

Yet the evidence is right there in black on white.

LdB
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 6, 2021 1:14 am

Go to any president and you will find a similar list .. here is Obama
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Obama_administration_controversies

Even Biden has a few already
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Biden_administration_controversies

Does that make them corrupt as well?

Hans
Reply to  LdB
September 7, 2021 1:40 pm

BOB, your “sources” leave a lot to be desired.

Fraizer
Reply to  MarkW
September 5, 2021 2:52 pm

Hey! I Like big oily boobs.
The recursive Acronym Big Oil Bob, not so much.

Lrp
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 6:16 pm

Worker bees? Time servers and unproductive burden on economy

AWG
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 7:47 pm

I like the reference to the Rolling Stone site. This is the same one that lied about a UVA rape case, and more recently flat out lied about the Oklahoma hospital allegedly flooded with INV overdoses while white MIllennials lined up standing outside the hospital wearing parkas and masks in the middle of August waiting to be treated for gunshot wounds.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  AWG
September 6, 2021 7:38 am

Later they “retracted” it by adding a paragraph at the bottom, but left the bulk as-published.

Catpaws
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 12:34 pm

This sort of thing happens when there are too many employees with too much time on their hands. Recall during the Obama shutdown of the federal government, EPA announced that 80% of their employees were “non-essential”. Had Trump kept his promise to “drain the swamp”, those “non-essential” employees would have been terminated or reassigned. The remaining 20% would have to produce the work product.

bigoilbob
Reply to  Catpaws
September 5, 2021 2:01 pm

“Nonessential” only in that their would not be immediate impact. You are confusing that with redundant. To suggest that 80% of the EPA workforce is not doing what we want them to do – protecting the environment – is ludicrous.

MarkW
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 2:09 pm

I would say that the number is 90%, if not higher.
At least 90% of EPA regulations only benefit those who enforce them.

Lrp
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 6:19 pm

Useless

Lrp
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 5, 2021 6:09 pm

Keep up the class struggle!

paul courtney
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 6, 2021 7:11 am

Mr. bob: Thanks for, once again, letting your slip show. A “big oil” guy who favors a “re-energized” EPA??!! I clearly overestimated you when calling you a time server.

John Dueker
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 6, 2021 9:47 am
bigoilbob
Reply to  John Dueker
September 6, 2021 10:07 am

You got a tiny part of the story. The EPA ended up paying ~$29M, and most of the resistance was under A l’Orange.

Are you whining about an accident that was part of a federal clean up? You conveniently forget that (1) the multi bil aks was silly on it’s face, (2) they were cleaning up after a private venture, and (3) the EPA, overall, has an unparalleled track record in doing so. Gold, coal, copper, and now oil, will all end up with billions in shirked asset retirement costs that the EPA and other such agencies will have to complete.

Bill Powers
Reply to  bigoilbob
September 7, 2021 9:30 am

So everything in Central Authoritarian Land, was humming along just fine until Trump? And then the world crumbled around your ankles and you were left standing in the rubble? That was until you got that everyman’s genius Joe Biden elected and now everything is spinning like a top again?

Really!? BOB! You need to turn off CNN.

bigoilbob
Reply to  Bill Powers
September 7, 2021 9:42 am

So everything in Central Authoritarian Land, was humming along just fine until Trump?”

Both hyperbole and straw manning in one silly sentence.

Ron Long
September 5, 2021 6:36 am

“Bad Air Days” are common as you get older and eat certain foods. Does not apply to EPA as all of them are young/naive/woke/socialists/vegetarians.

2hotel9
September 5, 2021 7:14 am

EPA facilities are never in compliance with EPA regs, they make up reports to cover their ass same as they make up reports to punish people that don’t pay them off.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  2hotel9
September 5, 2021 12:30 pm

Quick Quiz: Where is the one location in the US where it is legal to dump toluene (or any other nasty solvent) down a sink drain?

2hotel9
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 5, 2021 3:12 pm

Any EPA run facility. That includes National Park restrooms, port-o-potties on federal work sites and the homes of all EPA “employees”.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  2hotel9
September 6, 2021 7:41 am

Don’t forget the US Capitol building in Wash DC—Congress exempted themselves from all pollution laws and regulations.

TonyG
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 6, 2021 9:16 am

That’s the source of some of the worst out of DC. The founders weren’t cynical enough to add a clause to the Constitution saying Congress may not exempt itself from any laws it passes.

D Clothier
Reply to  TonyG
September 6, 2021 11:23 am

I am certain that the idea that the people’s and state’s representatives would act the same as the king’s men they fought and that the people would allow it was beyond their ability to accept.

2hotel9
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 7, 2021 4:00 am

Leftists always exempt themselves from the sh*t they impose on everyone else.

leitmotif
September 5, 2021 7:31 am

Environmental Polluting Agency.

Thomas Gasloli
September 5, 2021 7:38 am

From my experience in Air Quality this looks like a very small penalty payment.

Disputin
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
September 5, 2021 7:56 am

Yes, but who pays?

Ruleo
Reply to  Disputin
September 5, 2021 9:37 pm

The Public. Always.

September 5, 2021 8:04 am

Did the EPA pay anything for poisoning Animas river in 2015?
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gold-king-mine-spill-colorado-rivers-epa-claims/

MarkW
Reply to  Curious Georgel
September 5, 2021 2:10 pm

Obviously that never happened, according to bob, the EPA was perfect before Trump messed it up.

Len Werner
Reply to  Curious Georgel
September 5, 2021 2:55 pm

That Gold King Mine ‘disaster’ is worth a revisit. I noticed this summer in a webcam image that the Animas in Durango was bright orange again–Wow, I thought, was the EPA playing Pokemine again? So I checked news for another spill.

Nothing–so I checked weather. There had been thunderstorms in the San Juan caldera the night before. That led me to thinking about natural pollution so I did more research and have watched the river all summer.

It turns out that following thunderstorms the Animas always turns orange; it’s been doing that for millions of years. In fact, from reports filed following the EPA incident I found that the maximum turbidity following the Great Gold King Mine Drain was 600 turbidity units downstream of Durango–so I checked what happened after thunderstorms: 1,000 turbidity units. Anyone can check the USGS monitoring stations giving daily data; there were at least 3 days this summer when the turbidity was over the EPA-(contractor)-generated 600 units of 2015.

I also read a report published by a group that went into the upper Animas tributaries after the spill and found that natural springs were more acidic and contained more metals than the mine drainage. Their conclusion was that ‘nature was the greatest polluter’. Not something that many people want to hear, similar to not wanting to hear that annual natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico are equal to the DeepWater Horizon total spill–and have also been going on steadily for millions of years.

Now I’m no fan or defender of the EPA, but compared to annual natural pollution the Gold King Mine incident was a relatively minor event, despite the well-deserved humorous irony it generated. The crime of stupidity is that despite this contrast the area of the mines has been declared a ‘Superfund’ cleanup site and mining will never be allowed in there again. Nature will continue to pollute more than man or mine has, but ‘man is bad’ regardless. That’s just not rational.

As for giving the EPA a fine because a standby generator started up under an automatic self-check routine on a ‘bad air day’–that’s what is called a ‘chickensh!t ticket’, similar to giving a motorist a ticket for going 65 km/hr 10 meters before the sign that changes the speed zone to 80 km/hr, or giving a trucker a ticket because one of his two bulbs in a mirror light is burned out.

2hotel9
Reply to  Len Werner
September 5, 2021 3:13 pm

 ‘chickensh!t ticket’” That is the specialty of EPA.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Len Werner
September 6, 2021 7:56 am

The Silverton caldera, out of which the Animas River flows, contains large amounts of metal ore, especially gold and silver. Rocks in the river bed are stained unnatural colors, partly a heritage of the mining industry in the Silverton area which operated without concern for water pollution for many years starting in the late 1800s. There was a huge mill downstream in Durango that was later used to refine WWII-era uranium. It became an EPA superfund site and the massive tailings mound was removed to places elsewhere.

DMacKenzie
September 5, 2021 9:11 am

It’s just stroking the media kitty-cat to hear it purr. One level of government seeking financial settlements against another level of government is just moving money from one pocket to another. They can make the settlement huuuuge….to show the public how serious they are. Meanwhile the cheque for the settlement is paid out of “general revenue” and deposited back to “general revenue”. They can even do a couple of journal entries to show that the department handles a lot of funds and needs more employees.

Waza
Reply to  DMacKenzie
September 5, 2021 3:07 pm

D
Very good description, however I wish to add this moving money around is not fully cost neutral.
At a grass roots level a municipality may have an engineering team and an environment team.
The environment team can impose many restrictions on the projects of the engineering team including the issuing of fines. The fines/penalties go to the environment team leading to less funds for engineering projects.

Steve Oregon
September 5, 2021 9:14 am

Just imagine how common this sort of violation is.

But it’s comical to pretend imposing a fine on a government agency is a “penalty”.
The paying of a fine represents no consequence or accountability for anyone.
The bureaucrats are laughing.
At ever level of government that’s what they do. Whatever they want without worry of any consequences whatsoever.

Robert Alfred Taylor
Reply to  Steve Oregon
September 5, 2021 4:38 pm

It can be said many ways, but I like Robert A. Heinlein’s: Authority = Responsibility.
It is obviously wrong to hold someone responsible, except to the extent they have authority. It equally obviously wrong to allow authority to anyone, except to the extent they are held responsible.
For decades I have advocated penalties to corporations should be paid, as a percentage of total income, by the officers and directors, with no compensation of any kind allowed. And, penalties to government entities should be payed by the people involved starting with the managers involved at the lowest level and proceeding upward in decreasing percentages of total income, all the way up to and including the President, Governor, Mayor, or whatever.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Robert Alfred Taylor
September 6, 2021 8:00 am

Modern management theory has divorced authority from responsibility, one form of this is “matrix management”. Those with authority have no responsibility to succeed, and those with responsibility have no authority to get what needs to done, actually performed. It is designed for failure from the outset.

beafrank
September 5, 2021 10:17 am

According to the proggie EPA, humans exhaling is pollution.

Bill S
September 5, 2021 10:21 am

The EPA makes its own laws (rules), sets its own fines, has the police power to investigate you or your business without needing to show cause beforehand, has its own armed police force who can arrest you and put you in jail on their own say so, has its own internal court system (administrative court) whose judges, police, and prosecutors are employees of the EPA, and who are paid by the EPA.

Justice is suppose to be impartial, but when the police, prosecutors, and judges work for the EPA, get appointed, promoted, fired or disciplined by the EPA, and the judges’ career, pay, and retirement benefits all come from the EPA, impartiality is unlikely if not impossible.

Only after exhausting the EPA Administrative courts (at great personal expense) does one get a hearing before an independent judge (one not on the payroll and an employee of the EPA) in the Federal Justice system. The only employee that is somewhat responsive to we the people that the President can fire is the Administrator. All others answer only to the Administrator, and are protected by the civil service rules.

The EPA is executive, legislative, and justice all under one hat with no oversight by we the people. It is the antithesis of the system that our founding fathers set up in the Constitution with explicit separation of powers for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our Federal Government, with the legislative branch and the President and VP selected by we the people.

Expect the EPA to be weaponized on steroids as a means of dictatorial control of the United States in the future if the Democrats maintain power.

Last edited 15 days ago by Bill S
Dave Fair
September 5, 2021 11:39 am

(2) changing a generator setting to require that generator testing be started manually, to avoid automatic startup on bad air days;” So, now they don’t know if the auto start (emergency) feature works or not.

hiskorr
Reply to  Dave Fair
September 5, 2021 12:12 pm

Changing the regulations in ways that may favor the union or the bureaucrats (or their NGO friends) without “bothering” the administration or Congress is usually the objective of these “sue and settle” arrangements.

Loren C. Wilson
September 5, 2021 12:35 pm

Sounds like one of the charges was that the generator automatically tested itself on a bad air day. As the test is usually brief, this is not the same as running all day and a petty issue by NJ.

Patrick Henry
September 5, 2021 12:54 pm

Don’t forget what these idiots did to the Navajo Nation.

Herbert
September 5, 2021 1:07 pm

Someone should inform the EPA that its Endangerment Ruling of 7 December 2009 is in error and that CO2 is not a “pollutant”.
CO2 is neither a pollutant nor toxic although it is a greenhouse gas as Dr.Alan Finkel, Eighth Australian Chief Scientist, has recently explained in his April “Quarterly Essay”, ‘Getting to Zero’.
On his reasoning,the only remaining issue is the warming effect occasioned by such greenhouse gases from pre- industrial times and that has been benign.
He believes erroneously that it may be potentially dangerous.
The EPA endangerment ruling is nonsensical and should be revoked.
That will let the New Jersey division off the hook and save the taxpayers the admittedly modest fine.

Jim G.
September 5, 2021 2:41 pm

Interesting.
I wonder how many bad air days that have in Elizabeth, NJ?

Gregg Eshelman
September 5, 2021 8:50 pm

But has the EPA ever been fined for the Gold King Mine toxic water release?

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