EPA Enforcement Actions in New York Lead to Environmental Improvements
Using a full range of compliance and enforcement strategies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continued to bring more and more facilities in New York State into and beyond compliance with federal laws that protect public health and the environment in fiscal year 2007, which runs from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007. In that period, EPA enforcement actions cut pollution in air and water and on land by more than 350,000 pounds, resulted in private investments of nearly $1.1 billion in pollution control and cleanups, as well as $712,000 for environmentally beneficial projects. In addition, EPA issued 66 administrative orders to correct violations of EPA regulations in New York.
Among the highlights of these actions was an agreement between EPA and the General Electric Company for the company to build a sediment processing/transfer facility in Fort Edward and carry out the first phase of EPA’s dredging cleanup plan for the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site. In February, EPA signed an agreement with New York City under which the city will spend approximately $900 million to build an ultraviolet disinfection facility to treat the drinking water from the Catskill and Delaware system by end of August 2012 and provide increased public health protection for approximately 7 million people. In addition, EPA reached a settlement with the New York City Transit Authority that contributed to the removal of about 1,110 old subway cars from commuter service, cutting ozone-depleting substances from the environment by more than 41,000 pounds.
“New Yorkers can count on our continued vigilance in enforcing EPA regulations when action is needed,” EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg said. “Complying with environmental law isn’t jut the right thing to do--- it’s the backbone of our mission to protect people’s health and the environment.”
EPA Region 2, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, exceeded the enforcement program accomplishments of the previous year in a number of key categories. For example, the amount of money spent by the regulated community to build pollution abatement facilities and conduct environmental improvement measures increased over 1300%, from $285.9 million to over $4 billion. The volume of pollution reduced through enforcement actions rose by 95%, from 35.7 million pounds to 69.7 million pounds. The amount of civil penalties collected from non-complying facilities increased by 102%, from $5.6 million to $11.3 million, and the number of projects undertaken by the regulated community was up by 62%, from 21 to 34.
On a national scale, in fiscal year 2007, EPA’s civil and criminal enforcement actions resulted in pollutant reductions of 890 million pounds. Over 65 percent of these reductions were achieved by addressing high-priority air and water pollution challenges. Air priority efforts achieved commitments to reduce 426.8 million pounds of pollutants, while water priority efforts achieved commitments to reduce 178 million pounds.
Over the last five years, EPA’s enforcement program has sustained a steady track record of pollution reductions and commitments from industry to install pollution controls. Since 2003, EPA’s enforcement activities have required companies to invest over $33 billion in pollution control equipment to achieve pollution reductions of nearly 4.5 billion pounds.
SUMMARIES OF NOTABLE CASES IN NEW YORK
Consent Decree Entered for Hudson River PCBs Site
In November 2006, the federal court approved the agreement between EPA and the General Electric Company (GE) requiring it to construct a sediment processing/transfer facility in Fort Edward, New York, and to begin dredging the PCB-contaminated sediments in the river. The agreement also calls for GE to pay EPA about $78 million for the Agency’s past and future costs at the site if GE agrees to conduct the second phase of dredging, and about $43 million for such costs if GE does not agree to conduct that phase. These amounts are in addition to the approximately $37 million in cost reimbursement that GE has already made under earlier settlements with EPA.
Safe Drinking Water Settlement with New York City
EPA signed an agreement with New York City that sets an enforceable schedule for the construction and operation of an ultraviolet disinfection facility to treat water from the Catskill and Delaware water supplies by August 31, 2012. The agreement will allow the city to meet the federal requirement for all unfiltered water supplies to install a secondary disinfectant to provide an additional barrier of protection against microbial pathogens. The city was unable to meet an earlier date for the installation due to several delays. The city estimates it will cost $900 million to install the system.
Clean Air Act Settlement with New York City Transit Authority
The federal district court in Manhattan approved a settlement between EPA and the New York City Transit Authority resolving violations of the Clean Air Act that require proper repairs of air conditioning units on subway cars in order to prevent leakage of ozone-depleting substances and the maintenance of proper servicing records for such units. The Authority paid a civil penalty of $165,000, and EPA’s enforcement action also contributed to the Authority’s decision to remove more than 1,100 old polluting subway cars known as “Redbirds” from service, resulting in a reduction of 41,184 pounds of ozone-depleting substances.
More information on EPA’s enforcement and compliance programs, its accomplishments and the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) research tool can be found at http://www.epa.gov/echo. More information about EPA Region 2 enforcement and compliance programs can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region2/capp. Additional details on Region 2’s enforcement and compliance results for 2007 can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region2/capp/results.htm.
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