Dyno-Nobel, Inc. Pleads Guilty for Failing to Notify Federal Authorities of Anhydrous Discharges Near St. Helens
Owner of St. Helens-area urea plant agrees to institute remedial measures during a two-year erm of probation and seek a $250,000 criminal fine.
PORTLAND, Ore. – On Friday, February 23, 2018, Dyno Nobel, Inc., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon to one count of violating section 103(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), following a series of large-scale ammonia discharges from a urea-manufacturing plant outside St. Helens, Oregon, in July and August 2015. The offense is a class-E felony, carrying a maximum fine of $500,000 and up to five years’ probation.
“Many of the nation’s environmental laws exist specifically to minimize the dangers essential industries pose to surrounding communities,” noted Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, “and this criminal conviction will serve as an important reminder that the EPA and the United States Attorney’s Office will work together to ensure that violations of those laws do not go unpunished.”
“Not only did this defendant release over six tons of anhydrous ammonia, impacting the neighboring community, they impeded response actions by failing to report the release,” said Jeanne Proctor, EPA’s special agent in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle. “EPA will not tolerate this blatant disregard for public safety.”
According to Dyno Nobel’s plea agreement with the government, the company’s St. Helens plant discharged more than six tons of anhydrous ammonia vapor—a hazardous substance—into the air over the course of a three-day period starting on July 30, 2015. A subsequent investigation revealed that several failed attempts to restart the urea plant had caused a series of massive discharges from the facility, triggering numerous complaints of foul odors, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing from citizens of nearby Columbia City, Oregon.
Although Dyno Nobel personnel knew that excessive ammonia emissions were occurring, no effort was made to alert the authorities at the National Response Center until August 7, 2015—more than a week after the first discharge. Federal law requires such reports to be made “immediately.”
Dyno Nobel, Inc. is a Delaware corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of IPL Group. The company entered its guilty plea at Friday’s hearing through Senior Vice President and Secretary Jeff Droubay. The parties’ plea agreement proposes a stipulated criminal sentence of two years’ probation, requiring remedial steps to better measure and detect future emissions, and a $250,000 criminal fine. Ultimately, however, the Court may reject the parties’ stipulation and impose a different sentence.
This case was investigated by EPA Criminal Investigations; it was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla Gebel Perrin.