Settlements with BP and Volkswagen may have received the most attention, but they weren’t the only companies ordered to pay billions of dollars to resolve air and water violations and fund pollution-control projects in 2016.
EPA enforcement actions secured $13.7 billion from companies during fiscal year 2016, according to the agency’s annual enforcement results. This is up from fiscal year 2015, when enforcement actions cost companies about $7 billion.
The agency says its enforcement actions also secured:
- more than $1 billion in commitments from responsible parties to clean up Superfund sites.
- $6 billion in combined federal administrative, civil judicial penalties and criminal fines; and
- $31.6 million for supplemental environmental projects.
Environmental enforcement actions in 2016 include the $20.8 billion BP agreed to pay the federal and state governments in October to resolve environmental damage claims related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill — the largest settlement with a single entity in the Department of Justice’s history.
It also includes an agreement with VW to spend up to $14.7 billion on projects to reduce air pollution, remedy environmental damage and buy back 2.0 liter diesel vehicles to settle allegations of using illegal software to cheat emissions tests and deceive customers. This case was lodged in fiscal year 2015 but not entered by the court until Oct. 25, 2016.
Other enforcement actions include:
Subsidiaries of oil refiners Tesoro and Par Hawaii Refining agreed to pay $425 million to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations and reduce air pollution at six refineries.
Enbridge, which owns and operates one of the world’s largest oil pipeline systems, will spend at least $110 million on implementing a series of state-of-the-art leak detection and monitoring measures to prevent spills, improve operations and protect communities across nearly 2,000 miles of its pipeline system in the Great Lakes region, following oil spills in Michigan and Illinois in 2010. Enbridge is also paying $62 million in penalties.
In a settlement with Marathon Petroleum Company, the company agreed to spend $319 million to install state-of-the-art air pollution controls at refineries in five different states, protecting the health of low-income and other vulnerable communities across the Southeast and Midwest.
Sears will implement a corporate-wide program to ensure its contractors minimize lead dust from home renovation activities to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint.
A settlement with Southern Coal and its affiliates requires the companies to spend $5 million to reduce water pollution and settle Clean Water Act charges stemming from polluted wastewater discharges from their coal mines in Appalachia.
A settlement with national grocery store chain Trader Joe’s under which the company will spend $2 million to reduce potent greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment at 453 stores nationwide. Trader Joe’s also agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty.