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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: EPA Works with Border Protection; EPA Subpoenas Halliburton Records; Oil Field Cease and Desist Order

Environmental Leader’s daily roundup of key environmental enforcement news


EPA Works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to Enforce the Clean Air Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are collaborating to ensure that all imported vehicles and engines comply with the Clean Air Act requirements, the agency announced yesterday.  In the past year, more than $6.5 million worth of vehicles including motorcycles, dirt bikes, tractors, and generators were imported into the U.S. and found to be in violation of the Clean Air Act, according to EPA records.

“Importing vehicles and engines without proper pollution controls is bad for human health and the environment, and unfair to those companies that play by the rules,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a press release. “Americans deserve products with emission controls that comply with our nation’s environmental laws.”

“CBP’s partnerships with other government agencies and private industry are a critical link in the protection of the American public, the economy, and the environment,” said Don Yando, executive director for Commercial Targeting and Enforcement in CBP’s Office of International Trade. “These partnerships enhance CBP’s ability to more effectively focus on those goods that pose the greatest threat.”

CBP officers identify shipments, with particular focus on companies that have previously violated the Clean Air Act, and put them on hold for inspection. EPA investigators, working closely with a special team of CBP officers, inspect the vehicles and engines. Vehicles and engines found to be uncertified are seized by CBP. In a recent seizure, EPA and CBP at the Port of Savannah, Ga. confiscated illegal off-road motorcycles worth more than $125,000.

The Clean Air Act  requires most new vehicles and engines imported into the U.S. to have an emissions label and a corresponding EPA certificate of conformity stating that the vehicle or engine meets federal emissions requirements.

Vehicles and engines emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog. Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause respiratory problems, and repeated exposure can aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.

CBP is the primary federal agency responsible for monitoring imports to the U.S., acting in cooperation with over 40 other federal agencies.

EPA Subpoenas Halliburton  Fracing Documents

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced that it has subpoenaed documents from oil field contractor Halliburton concerning its use of a process called hydraulic fracturing.  

In September, EPA requested information on hydraulic fracturing from nine energy companies that utilize the practice. EPA said in a press release that eight out of nine energy companies responded to the information requests, which according to the agency were voluntary. 

But when Halliburton failed to provide EPA the requested information, EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of documents responsive to its request.

According to EPA, submission of Halliburton’s information was “necessary to move forward with its study.”

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is the process of creating fissures, or fractures, in underground formations to allow natural gas to flow.  The practice has been used by energy companies in the U.S. since the 1940s.  Proponents say it is a proven technological advancement which allows natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations, that were previously not thought to be recoverable.
EPA’s congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study will look at the potential adverse impact of the practice on drinking water and public health. The agency is under a tight deadline to provide initial results by the end of 2012 and the thoroughness of the study depends on timely access to detailed information about the methods used for fracturing. EPA announced in March that it would conduct this study and solicit input from the public through a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions. The agency has completed the public meetings and thousands of Americans from across the country shared their views on the study and expressed full support for this effort.

On September 9, EPA reached out to nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers – BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford – seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted.

According to EPA, except for Halliburton, the companies have either fully complied with its September 9 request or made unconditional commitments to provide all the information on an expeditious schedule.

EPA Issues Cease and Desist Order to Oil Field Production Facility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a cease and desist administrative order to Sam W. Mays, Jr., LLC of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

An October 1, 2010, EPA inspection of the company’s oil field production facility in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, found an unauthorized discharge of oil field brine generated by oil production activities into a tributary of Salt Creek. The inspection also revealed that water located at the discharge point of entry into the tributary of Salt Creek was contaminated from brine discharges and salts.

Based on these findings, Sam W. Mays Jr., LLC has been ordered to cease all discharges of pollutants from the facility and remove all brine from the flow path located between the facility and the tributary of Salt Creek. The company has also been ordered to remove all brine from the tributary of Salt Creek and within 30 days provide written certification that these activities have been completed.

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