Third Employee of Westward Seafoods Sentenced for Clean Air Act Crime
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that Bryan Beigh, 48, a former powerhouse operator for Westward Seafoods, Inc. (Westward) was sentenced in U.S. District Court, in Anchorage, by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline, to serve three years of probation and pay a $750 fine for tampering with the pollution control monitoring equipment required under the Clean Air Act at the Westward seafood processing facility in Dutch Harbor.
Kevin Feldis, First Assistant United States Attorney, and Karla Perrin, EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel, who prosecuted the case, argued to the court that Beigh participated in this scheme to tamper with equipment and conceal the failure to operate pollution control equipment in order to make his job easier, without any thought of the potential consequences to others.
Westward has operated a sizeable seafood processing facility in Dutch Harbor since 1999, processing approximately 250 million pounds of seafood per year. Westward is a wholly owned subsidiary of Maruha-Nichiro Holdings, Inc., a Japanese-based company, and maintains its headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The Dutch Harbor facility generates its own electricity with three diesel-fueled generators contained in its powerhouse building. Air emissions from these generators are vented through a single combined smokestack, and these emissions are regulated by a Title V Permit under the Clean Air Act. The permit was issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), under delegated authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Under the terms of its permit, Westward was required to install and use pollution control equipment to decrease the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) being emitted from the powerhouse smokestack. To meet this requirement, Westward installed a Combustion Air Saturation System (CASS) for each generator unit, which uses water to saturate the air and reduce emissions from each generator. The permit also required Westward to operate each generator with a “dedicated fuel and water flow meter” and to record the fuel and water consumption “at a consistent time once per day.”
Beginning in 2009, and continuing until August 2011, Westward failed to operate the CASS pollution control equipment. The powerhouse supervisor, Raul Morales, discussed with the assistant chief engineer, James Hampton, that he and the powerhouse staff had stopped operating the CASS. Bryan Beigh, a powerhouse operator, assisted in falsifying data collection forms called “Engine Round” forms on a daily basis when it came to recording information about the operation of the CASS. The false information not only included indicating that the CASS was operating “OK” when it was off, but also included generating false water meter flow readings. Because the CASS was not being operated, no water was flowing through the system and therefore the actual water flow meter readings would have revealed no water use. Morales maintained a running calculation of what the flow meters should have indicated if the CASS had been properly operated, and Beigh went so far as to develop a system of removing the water flow meters to manually spin them using a drill and a magnet to make it appear that water had been flowing through the system.
In 2010, Westward entered into a civil consent decree with the United States and agreed to pay a civil penalty following prior allegations that the company had, among other things, violated emissions limits under the Clean Air Act. The consent decree, filed in United States v. Westward, 3:10-cv-00073-JWS, required Westward to reduce its NOx emissions by properly operating pollution prevention equipment.
While the EPA did not receive any reports of harm to human beings as a result of the emissions at Westward during this period of time, NOx can cause airway inflammation in otherwise healthy people and can cause or worsen symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases.
Earlier this month, James Hampton was sentenced to just over two months in prison (70 days), and Raul Morales was sentenced to one and one-half months in prison (45 days). Both defendants were ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and serve a one-year term of supervision upon release from prison. Judge Beistline noted that both defendants knew what they were doing was against the law, but they did it anyway, and that the sentences imposed should deter others from committing similar crimes. During today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Beistline emphasized the need for every individual to have respect for the rule of law, and he told Beigh that it was not up to him to decide whether or not to follow the law. In fashioning a probationary sentence, Judge Beistline noted that Beigh had no criminal history, was remorseful and honest about his crime, and had cooperated with the United States from the beginning of the investigation.This case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.