Federal Judge Orders Belvan Corporation to Pay $500,000 for Violating Clean Air Act
LUBBOCK, Texas — At a sentencing hearing held this morning in federal court in Lubbock, Texas, U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings ordered Belvan Corporation to pay a $500,000 fine following their guilty plea in December 2011 to a one-count felony information charging a violation of the Clean Air Act - failure to notify or report. Belvan admitted that it failed to notify the appropriate authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), of the plant’s release of noxious pollutants into the air. Today’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Belvan Corporation owned the Belvan Midway Lane Gas Processing Plant, a natural gas processing facility in Crockett County, Texas.
“Today’s sentence, the maximum allowable under the federal statute, demonstrates the seriousness of the environmental crimes committed by this corporation and underscores this office’s commitment to protecting the air our citizens breathe and the environment in which they live,” stated U.S. Attorney Saldaña.
“Careful monitoring and accurate record keeping are essential to assure compliance with environmental regulations,” said Ivan Vikin, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Texas. “Due to negligence on the part of the corporation’s senior managers, the Belvan facility illegally emitted sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide into the environment. This case demonstrates that those who endanger human health and the environment will be vigorously investigated by EPA and our partners with TCEQ and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”.
In January 2012, three executives at Belvan Corporation admitted violating the Clean Air Act. Michael Davis, Vice President of Engineering and Operations, Daniel Valmer Meacham, Operations Manager, and Robert Mark Stewart, Environmental Coordinator, each pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act. In accordance with the terms of their plea agreements, Davis paid a $50,000 fine; Meacham paid a $22,000 fine and Stewart paid a $15,000 fine. In addition, they were each sentenced to serve a one-year term of probation during which they must complete an eight-hour environmental awareness training program.
According to documents filed in the case, from October 15, 2005, through December 12, 2008, an environmental control called the Sulfur Recovery Unit (SRU), which is designed to recover sulfur from gaseous hydrogen sulfide, was shut down at the Belvan Midway Lane Gas Processing Plant. During that time, acid gas was diverted from the SRU to the flair system, combusting the acid gas and releasing dangerous substances, including hydrogen sulfide, sulphur dioxide and other noxious pollutants into the air. The defendants did not report these dangerous emissions and thus placed people in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury. In fact, Belvan only reported the dangerous emissions years after they began.
The investigation was conducted by the EPA, the TCEQ and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paulina M. Jacobo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lubbock, Texas, was in charge of the prosecution.
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