US EPA and US DOJ settle environmental enforcement case with Newport Biodiesel

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Justice (DOJ) have settled an environmental enforcement case with Newport Biodiesel, resulting in reduced air emissions and improved safety controls at the company’s biodiesel manufacturing plant in Newport, Rhode Island.

EPA and DOJ alleged that Newport Biodiesel violated various Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements for hazardous air pollutants and chemical accident prevention, and also violated oil spill planning and chemical reporting requirements.

Newport Biodiesel has corrected these violations and installed new air pollution control and safety equipment at its manufacturing facility. Under the settlement consent decree, which was lodged in the federal district court, the company will also pay a $396,000 fine.

Biodiesel is an environmentally important product, but commercial biodiesel manufacturing uses large amounts of methanol, which is a toxic and highly flammable liquid, the EPA stated.

Methanol requires special firefighting attention because it burns with little visible flame and stays flammable even when mixed with large quantities of water. Methanol is also listed as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Consequently, it is vital that biodiesel manufacturers fully comply with CAA emission and chemical safety requirements, the EPA stressed.

When EPA began this enforcement action in 2013, the Newport Biodiesel facility had no control system for its methanol emissions. In 2014, EPA and Newport Biodiesel signed an administrative order on consent (AOC) in which the company agreed to comply with CAA hazardous air pollution standards and control its methanol emissions.

Under the AOC, Newport Biodiesel designed and installed a new emissions control system that began operating in December 2015. These controls will reduce the facility’s methanol emissions by about 15 tonnes per year. Under today’s judicial settlement, Newport Biodiesel will conduct performance testing to confirm the proper operation of these controls. 

During this enforcement action, Newport Biodiesel also installed a new fire suppression system to comply with the CAA’s chemical accident prevention provisions, which include a general duty clause requiring that facilities be designed to prevent and mitigate chemical accidents.

 Previously, there was no automatic fire suppression in the company’s main manufacturing building. Newport Biodiesel worked with local fire officials to develop an appropriate fire suppression system for the facility. The new system was installed and began operating in December 2015.

The settlement concludes the first civil judicial action against a biodiesel manufacturer for violations of CAA hazardous air pollutant regulations and chemical accident prevention standards, the EPA said.

In a statement, the organisations said: “EPA and DOJ’s enforcement action and Newport Biodiesel’s cooperation throughout the case has resulted in improved safety at the company’s facility and cleaner air for the surrounding Newport community.

“Apart from the CAA violations, Newport Biodiesel also violated Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act reporting requirements by failing to file certain chemical inventory forms with emergency response authorities, and violated Clean Water Act regulations by failing to prepare and implement an oil spill prevention and control plan. These violations were corrected in 2013-14.”

As Biofuels International published this story this morning (2 June, 2016), nobody from Newport Biodiesel was available for comment.