We recently completed an in depth review of trends in the State of California for hazardous waste fines. And the trends continue to point towards heavy regulatory action, especially against firms that are ill-equipped to manage a crisis.
There seems to be a consistent rate of facilities being fined. Year over year about 40-50 Standard Permit and TSDF Permitted facilities find themselves the unwelcome recipients of enforcement fines. Over the past 5 years, the non-criminal penalties have also remained fairly consistent with fines ranging from $2,000,000 to $4,000,000 for the facilities we reviewed. In 2016, approximately 83% of the facilities fined were for cited for mercury thermostat management related infractions. We can surmise that inspectors are actively pursuing specific important issues in order to make a point with all facilities.
The real story is the impact of criminal fines. In 2013, Rite-Aid pushed the numbers into record territory with a massive $9.4 million criminal fine. Two years later in 2015 Electro-Forming almost matched Rite Aid in 2015 with an $8.9 million fine. This year both Apple and O’Reilly Auto Parts were in the news with recent settlements. Apple settled with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for $450,000 for several years of processing electronic waste without a permit. O’Reilly’s settlement of $9.86 million exceeds the 2013 Rite-Aid fine.
In the O’Rielly case, the lawsuit claimed that more than 525 stores throughout the state unlawfully handled, transported and disposed of used oil, used oil filters and various hazardous wastes and materials over a 5 year period. Rite-Aid, Apple and O’Rielly are all publically traded and well known corporations.
How does it come about that a successful business ends up facing significant criminal action for environmental violations?
Most companies do not willfully violate environmental regulations, although it does sometimes happen. Because business leaders and managers are focused on their business missions of selling consumer products, creating electronic devices, and selling auto parts respectively, their primary focus is not the myriad of complex environmental regulations, reporting deadlines, and compliance requirements and …they can be missed. While many firms have environmental managers on staff to handle regulatory compliance, most of these firms can benefit from outside support to provide additional horsepower, training and conduct ‘risk free’ mock inspections to assess compliance risks before the regulatory agency inspector comes to visit.
Alta Environmental feels that 2017 should be a fairly normal year for Alta clients. Our clients have largely mitigated risks within their operations through training and our routine audit support programs. We have taken extraordinary steps to ensure that our clients know how to handle a crisis should one happen. We believe that a good partner is key to managing risks associated with environmental compliance.
For information and questions call us at (800) 777-0605.