Washington, DC - Formosa Plastics Corporation, Texas, has agreed to pay $2.85 million in civil penalties and to improve its risk management program to resolve alleged violations of the Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at its petrochemical manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
In the complaint, filed today with the proposed consent decree, the United States alleges 20 violations of the CAA. Formosa’s Point Comfort plant is subject to Section 112(r) of the CAA regulations, known as the Risk Management Program, which are designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s investigation of Formosa was spurred by a series of fires, explosions and accidental releases at the Point Comfort plant spanning from May 2013 through October 2016. These accidents caused injuries to workers, including second- and third-degree burns and chlorine inhalation requiring hospitalization, as well as property damage and the release of extremely hazardous substances to the environment.
“Formosa repeatedly failed to comply with the chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act at the Point Comfort plant, repeatedly placing their workers, neighbors and the environment in danger,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement will ensure Formosa’s compliance with essential regulations intended to protect workers and the community as well as help prevent dangerous chemical releases from occurring in the future.”
“This case demonstrates the importance of adopting and executing adequate chemical safety procedures to protect the safety of workers, the community and the environment,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas.
“Formosa’s failure to implement safe work practices and failure to design and maintain a safe facility put public health and the environment at risk,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement requires Formosa to achieve compliance with its environmental obligations now and in the future, protecting air quality and the community of Point Comfort.”
Formosa will be required to update its response and personal protection plans to prevent employee injury, conduct a third-party audit of its risk management practices, perform corrective actions based on audit results and develop key performance indicators to evaluate future compliance. In addition, the company agreed to conduct a service compatibility evaluation to identify incompatible equipment and implement a mechanical integrity reporting program.
The cost of the injunctive relief is estimated to be at least $1.4 million and will greatly improve the safe management of hazardous substances at the facility.
Congress added section 112(r) to the CAA in response to a 1984 catastrophic release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, that killed more than 3,400 people and caused over 200,000 others to suffer injuries. Under the CAA, facilities like Formosa’s are required to identify hazards, design and maintain a safe facility, minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur and comply with regulatory prevention measures. Failing to comply with these requirements increases the risk of accidents and threatens surrounding communities.
Reducing the risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of chemical accidents at chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program.