Safety Settlement for RI Biodiesel Plant

Monday, June 6, 2016 @ 01:06 PM gHale


Newport Biodiesel, Inc. reached a settlement where the company agreed to reduce air emissions and improve safety controls at its biodiesel manufacturing plant in Newport, RI.

In the case against Newport Biodiesel, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) charged Newport Biodiesel violated various Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements for hazardous air pollutants and chemical accident prevention, and also violated oil spill planning and chemical reporting requirements.

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Newport Biodiesel corrected these violations and installed new air pollution control and safety equipment at its manufacturing facility.

Under the settlement consent decree, lodged in federal district court, the company will also pay a $396,000 fine.

Biodiesel is an environmentally important product, but commercial biodiesel manufacturing uses large amounts of methanol, which is a toxic and highly flammable liquid. Methanol requires special firefighting attention because it burns with little visible flame and stays flammable even when mixed with large quantities of water.

Methanol also falls in the hazardous air pollutant category under the Clean Air Act. Consequently, it is vital that biodiesel manufacturers fully comply with CAA emission and chemical safety requirements.

When EPA began this enforcement action in 2013, the Newport Biodiesel facility had no control system for its methanol emissions. In 2014, EPA and Newport Biodiesel signed an administrative order on consent (AOC) in which the company agreed to comply with CAA hazardous air pollution standards and control its methanol emissions.

Under the AOC, Newport Biodiesel designed and installed a new emissions control system that began operating in December 2015. These controls will reduce the facility’s methanol emissions by about 15 tons per year. Under the settlement, Newport Biodiesel will conduct performance testing to confirm the proper operation of these controls.

During this enforcement action, Newport Biodiesel also installed a new fire suppression system to comply with the CAA’s chemical accident prevention provisions, which include a general duty clause requiring that facilities be designed to prevent and mitigate chemical accidents.

Previously, there was no automatic fire suppression in the company’s main manufacturing building. Newport Biodiesel worked with local fire officials to develop an appropriate fire suppression system for the facility. The new system ended up installed and began operating in December 2015.

Today’s settlement concludes the first civil judicial action against a biodiesel manufacturer for violations of CAA hazardous air pollutant regulations and chemical accident prevention standards. EPA and DoJ’s enforcement action and Newport Biodiesel’s cooperation throughout the resulted in improved safety at the company’s facility and cleaner air for the surrounding community.

Apart from the CAA violations, Newport Biodiesel also violated Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act reporting requirements by failing to file certain chemical inventory forms with emergency response authorities, and violated Clean Water Act regulations by failing to prepare and implement an oil spill prevention and control plan. These violations ended up corrected in 2013-14.