Stakeholders must keep track of pertinent environmental regulations

February 19, 2014

Whether they work in the energy industry or are simply responsible for managing waste disposal, major stakeholders need to be aware of pertinent federal and state regulations that affect their operations. The consequences of failing to do so can be severe—not only do the various parties involved face potential penalties, but they may also be contributing to environmental disasters that will harm the surrounding area and be exceedingly expensive to cleanup.

Consider two recent examples of stakeholders facing regulatory issues:

Huntington, West Virginia City Council considers city floodplain, city garage

At a recent meeting, the Huntington City Council considered two issues of import to the city. The first involves the zoning ordinances governing the city's floodplain. According to a report by the Herald-Dispatch, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is requiring a change in these ordinances. If that does not occur, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams told the news source that insurance rates would increase significantly for the city.

Williams has reportedly proposed funding a cleanup of infrastructure that would also mitigate future flood threats.

"It's something we need to make sure we have in place to provide a level of protection for residences that are in the floodplain," he added.

The council also considered a contract with a company that will remediate the city garage. As the former storage space of city gas tanks, this building may contain harmful chemical by-products and must be cleaned properly.

Nebraska facility violates Clean Water Act, ordered to pay penalty

In a recent judgment, Stabl, Inc., the former owner of a Lexington, Nebraska rendering plant, was ordered to pay a civil penalty of nearly $2.3 million, according to an article on the Lincoln Journal Star. U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled that the company was responsible for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act between August 2006 and May 2010.

According to data collected during that time period, Stabl exceeded waste discharge limits and disposed of pollutants that included ammonia, oil and grease. All told, the company is said to have violated the Clean Water Act 1,533 times, resulting in damages worth $1.1 million. Despite having received a Nebraska Pretreatment Program permit from the state in 2008, the news source reported that Stabl frequently failed to comply with the regulations attached to the permit.

The courts may have some difficulty extracting payment from Stabl, as the company no longer exists. As the news source reported, it was dissolved by the Nebraska Secretary of State in 2012 after failing to pay taxes. However, the environmental damage that it caused over the years remains.

Stakeholders must take pertinent regulations seriously

In both of these cases, the organizations in question could have avoided substantial environmental liabilities by maintaining compliance with federal environmental regulations. Such regulations can be complicated, and as a result companies can be unwittingly left with liabilities. By working with an environmental consulting firm, however, this can be avoided.