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The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality today announced an agreement with Vopak Terminal Deer Park Inc. and Vopak Logistics Services USA, Inc., that will improve air quality in the Houston area by strengthening air pollution controls and compliance with federal and state clean air laws at Vopak’s chemical storage terminal and wastewater treatment facility in Deer Park, Texas.
“Today’s settlement reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting clean air for the American people in partnership with the states,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The settlement will bring Vopak into compliance with federal and state clean air laws and will result in improved air quality for the residents of Harris County. We are proud to have partnered with Texas on this important result.”
“This agreement means cleaner air for Houston and will improve Vopak’s compliance with important federal and state laws,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to working with state partners like Texas to achieve and ensure monitoring of compliance with environmental laws.”
Under today’s agreement, which resolves alleged Clean Air Act violations at the Deer Park facility, Vopak will install state-of-the-art air pollution controls at the facility’s wastewater treatment system, and will use infrared cameras to detect harmful air pollution from the facility’s chemical storage tanks that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. The company will also hire a third party auditor to improve how Vopak manages waste and evaluate its compliance with the agreement.
When fully operational, these measures will significantly cut emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants at Vopak’s bulk chemical storage terminal and wastewater treatment facility.
Vopak’s Deer Park facility is in Harris County, Texas, an area that is classified as non-attainment for ozone.
EPA, the Justice Department and the State of Texas alleged that Vopak failed to comply with Clean Air Act requirements to properly manage equipment, which resulted in excess emissions of acetone, benzene, styrene and VOCs at an on-site wastewater treatment system. The federal government and Texas also alleged that Vopak failed to operate flares and chemical storage tanks in accordance with good air pollution practices, as required by state and federal law.
Ground level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and VOCs in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOCs. Excessive levels of VOCs, hazardous air pollutants, and ozone can cause harmful effects to public health, particularly children and the elderly, including eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea and damage to liver, kidney and the central nervous system.
As part of today’s agreement, Vopak will also pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million, split between the U.S. and the State of Texas.
Today’s agreement, a consent decree formalizing the settlement, was lodged with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on how to comment on the consent decree will be available in the Federal Register and on the Department of Justice’s website:www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.
For more information on this settlement or for a copy of the consent decree, visit www.epa.gov/enforcement/vopak-north-america-inc-clean-air-act-settlement-agreement