The Taxing Power of the EPA

Lincoln Brown
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Posted: Sep 14, 2012 12:01 AM

When is a tax not a tax?

When it is a fine, penalty or a “project.” Not everything in the government is paid for by deficit spending. Submitted for your consideration are just of few of the instances of ways in which the Environmental Protection Agency fuels the Big Government Machine. Below is a partial list of fines and penalties levied by the EPA against corporations and individuals starting with this calendar year. And remember, this is a partial list.

January 4th: The City of Scranton was given $12,619 penalty and made to undertake a $300,000 tree planting project because it failed to comply with a risk management plan.

January 9th: The owners and managers of  11 housing units in the Boston area agreed to pay $16,000 for not handing out the EPA’s led paint brochures.

January 10th:  The Heath Oil Company in Pennsylvania was hit with a $25,347 penalty. The company did have a spill prevention plan that met the EPA’s specs. 

January 10th: Northeast Housing, LLC, and Balfour Beatty Military Housing Management, LLC were faced with a potential $153,070 fine for allegedly not informing tenants at two New England housing developments about the dangers of lead-based paint.

February 28th: The Western Digital Corporation was fined $62,500 for failure to properly label and seal containers, failure to control tank emissions, failure to adequately train personnel, failure to monitor equipment, failure to provide an adequate contingency plan, and failure to provide a leak detection system.

February 28th: Sanders Wood Products in Liberal, Oregon (No really, that is the name of the town) was fined over $108,000 in penalties for leaks in three PCB-containing transformers.

March 6th: The Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing in Kansas  agreed to a civil penalty of more than $970,000 along with more than $4.25 million on new pollution controls and $6.5 million in operating costs for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

March 16th: CRM Rental Management of Rome, New York found itself facing $143,000 in fines for failure to provide lead disclosure statements.

March 26th: Crespo Realty of Flushing, New York was cited for failure to provide lead disclosure statements. It was not clear how many violations the company was facing, but each count has a maximum fine of $11,000.

March 28th: Coltec Industries and National Steel and Shipbuilding Company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $280,000 and spend approximately $500,000 on an environmental project  The companies build ship engines and did not attach the proper EPA label to their product and did not have a certificate of conformity with them.

April 3rd: The Duvall Development Co., Inc., Duvall & Son Livestock, Inc. and the president of both companies, Jeffrey H. Duvall, were hit with a  $30,000 penalty and have purchased five acres of forested land that was donated to the Chattahoochee National Forest. The EPA alleges that Between 2004 and 2005, the defendants illegally discharged fill material into waters of the United States by encasing or “piping” portions of four tributaries of Stekoa Creek that run across the Duvall Development Company’s property in Clayton, Georgia.

April 3rd: The Cosmoflex Company which makes rubber hoses in Hannibal, Missouri agreed to pay $800,000 in penalties for reporting and documentation violations.

April 5th: The Polidori Company a Utah developer was hit with $30,000 for allegations that it put fill material into a lake in Panguitch, Utah and its adjacent wetlands.

April 5th: The EPA announced the Colin Wentworth fined $10,000 for improperly using power equipment to remove lead-based paint from an 1850’s apartment building in Rockland, Maine, and that he had improperly trained his workers. The same day, the agency announced that the Johnson Sash and Door Company in Omaha did not provide owners and occupants of pre 1978 housing with EPA-approved lead paint pamphlets.

April 10th: In a rare case of “government-bites-government” the EPA fined the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health $68,000 for improperly labeling and storing pesticides.

May 3rd: The Kanto Company in Portland, Oregon which manufactures chemicals was penalized $58,200 for reporting violations

May 16: QEP Field Services was given a $3.65 million civil penalty and agreed to pay $350,000 into a Clean Air Trust Fund for alleged Clean Air Act Violations in northeast Utah. The company must also reduce its emissions. The alleged violations occurred at natural gas compression stations.

May 17th: The El Paso Midstream Group settled with the EPA to the tune of $20,000 in civil penalties and $235,000 to fund and maintain two air quality monitors, again in northeast Utah. The EPA claims that prior to 2009 the company did not control hazardous emissions and did not implement a leak detection and repair program.

July 25th: Talisman Energy USA Inc. was told to pay a $62,457 penalty to settle alleged violations of hazardous chemical reporting requirements at 52 hydraulic fracturing facilities throughout Pennsylvania that include natural gas well sites and compressor stations. Talisman discovered the violations and self-disclosed them to the EPA. So much for honesty.

August 24th: The Stone Energy Corporation of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, was fined $7,055 because the company did not conduct  inspections in accordance with federal SPCC regulations. The inspection also found the facility’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure plan did not discuss flowline high pressure devices and well shut-in valves as well as adequate protection of sub-marine piping against environmental stresses.

August 28th:  College Pro house painters in Massachusetts  agreed to pay a $7,200 penalty and to spend $65,000 on an environmental project at a school in Cambridge to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it failed to provide required lead hazard information to home owners in four New England states on 41 occasions. College Pro will spend $65,000 to replace or restore 79 windows that likely contain lead paint at Congregation Eitz Chayim or the  Harvard Hillel Children’s School on Magazine Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I tried adding up all of the fines, fees and settlements, but my calculator rebelled at having to work that hard.

I didn’t do in-depth research on all of these and some of them may be true ne’er-do-wells who were carelessly fouling the environment. But I know in the cases of lead paint, most people do not know they are in violation and know nothing about the EPA pamphlet unless they happen to be visit agency’s website. How often do you surf over to www.epa.gov in a given month?

What is noteworthy and in the case of the lead paint violations, egregious is the amount of fines that were imposed. No warnings, no fix-it tickets, no chances to replace the divot that did not involve scratching out a hefty check to Uncle Sam. And it begs the questions: With this number of fines in 9 months from one agency, what is the government doing with this money , and why does it feels the need has to hike our taxes? And, how much of this is going to Obamacare?