EPA continues to aggressively enforce the major environmental statutes, announcing in recent weeks several significant settlements, which shed light on the agency's enforcement priorities:

  • Homebuilder Toll Brothers entered into a multi-state settlement, paying a $741,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act stormwater permitting program at 370 sites in 23 states. This settlement reflects EPA's continuing enforcement focus on stormwater discharges associated with construction, a high-priority enforcement area for EPA. Over the last several years, EPA has entered into similar settlements with Ryland Homes, Lindsey Construction Company, Beazer Homes, Colorado Structures, Inc., and others. In addition to the civil penalty, Toll Brothers agreed to implement a comprehensive nationwide stormwater compliance program; appointment of national, division-level and site stormwater compliance managers; implementation of special requirements for Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, and routine inspections of construction sites and training for employees and contractors.
  • EPA announced another settlement under the Clean Water Act, this one involving Fairhaven Shipyards Company, which was alleged to have discharged untreated wastewater and stormwater without obtaining NPDES permits. Under the agreement, Fairhaven will pay a $175,000 civil penalty and bring itself into compliance with the Act.
  • In a second high-priority enforcement area, EPA recently settled another in a long series of actions brought against coal-fired power plants under the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act. Dairyland Power Cooperative agreed to a $950,000 civil penalty and to install $150 million of controls consisting of selective catalytic reduction for NOx and Flue Gas Desulfurization or Dry Sorbent Injection for SO2. Several units will cease burning coal, and others will be permanently retired.
  • In another Clean Air Act settlement, BASF agreed to a civil penalty of $780,000 and to take corrective action to address alleged violations of the leak detection and repair requirements at its chemical manufacturing facility in Wyandotte, Mich.
  • In what may portend a future enforcement approach for fracking operations, EPA announced a settlement with the Bonds Company, which operates oil production facilities in Arkansas. Bonds was alleged to have violated the Clean Water Act Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements. EPA has been looking for enforcement tools to use against fracking operations, particularly after an adverse court decision in one case brought under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Supreme Court's decision this past term in Sackett v. EPA, which authorized pre-enforcement review of administrative enforcement orders issued under the Clean Water Act (and, by extension, the Safe Drinking Water Act). The SPCC program, which requires facilities that store large quantities of petroleum products to develop and implement SPCC plans, may provide EPA a finger hold to increase its regulatory and enforcement oversight of fracking operations.