Trends, ABA’s Section on Energy, Environment, and Resources

Last September, BP paid a $15 million civil penalty to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations arising from a series of fires and explosions at its Texas City refinery that killed fifteen people and injured 170 in 2005. The CAA fine was based not on emissions violations, but on violations by BP of the General Duty Clause (GDC) and Risk Management Program (RMP) requirements of CAA section 112(r). In late 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled GDC enforcement cases arising from accidental releases at chemical manufacturing facilities in Kentucky and Mississippi for penalties of $600,000 and $731,000, respectively. These substantial penalties are consistent with the Obama administration’s emphasis on public safety as an enforcement priority and are indicative of the significant enforcement problem that GDC violations pose for stationary sources. This problem is compounded by the fact that GDC compliance is almost impossible to verify.