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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 6, 2014

Chemical Company Fined, Placed On Probation For Violating Clean Air Act

Roberts Chemical Company Admitted To Failing To Minimize The Chance Of Release Of Ethyl Ether, Protect Worker And Community Safety, And Develop A “worst Case” Response Plan At A Former Pawtucket Plant






PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Roberts Chemical Company, Inc. of Attleboro, Mass., was fined $200,000 and placed on probation for five years today by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., for violating the Clean Air Act. The company failed to develop and implement a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to minimize the chance of release of ethyl ether from its former Pawtucket, R.I., facility, and to protect workers, the community and emergency and first responders in the event of a release or fire involving ethyl ether. EPA regulations require a company’s RMP to include a “worst case” response plan.

Roberts Chemical Company, Inc. is in the business of storing, distributing and repackaging chemicals, some of which are designated as extremely hazardous. The company pleaded guilty in August 2014 to violating the Clean Air Act.

The sentence is announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; John Gauthier, Acting Special Agent in charge of EPA's criminal program in Rhode Island; and Bruce Foucart, Special Agent in charge of HSI Boston

"Protecting communities from hazardous chemical releases is a priority for EPA" said John Gauthier, Acting Special Agent in charge of EPA's criminal program in Rhode Island.  "Today's sentence emphasizes the importance of having a Risk Management Plan (RMP).  If handled or stored improperly, flammable liquids can injure or even kill.  With an RMP in place, workers and emergency responders are better prepared to deal with a chemical accident."

Ethyl ether is a volatile, extremely flammable liquid chemical. EPA regulations require facilities storing more than 10,000 lbs. of ethyl ether to develop and implement a RMP. An investigation by EPA determined that in November and December 2008, Roberts Chemical Company, Inc. failed to develop and implement a RMP while storing 27,467 lbs. of ethyl ether at their former facility at 258 Pine Street in Pawtucket.

“We will continue to vigorously investigate those who are determined to line their pockets with the proceeds of crimes against the environment," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "The willful falsification of EPA reports and DHS vulnerability assessments posed a triple threat to the national security, public safety, and economic well-being of the State of Rhode Island.”

In addition to paying a $200,000 fine and serving a term of 5 years probation, Roberts Chemical Company, Inc. is required to issue a public apology. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly.

This case was investigated by the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division and Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of the REFP Unit of the Office of Environmental Stewardship with EPA's Region 1 office.

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Updated June 22, 2015