Legal News

Kinder Morgan Ordered To Address Rise In Pipeline Incidents

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has ordered Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMEP) to address a recent increase in incidents along its hazardous liquids pipeline system.

On Aug. 25, the agency announced it issued a corrective action order requiring KMEP to comprehensively address integrity threats along the entire 3,900-mile Pacific Operations unit.

The order requires a thorough analysis of recent incidents, a third-party independent review of operations and procedural practices, and a restructuring of KMEP's internal inspection program. KMEP must have a revised integrity management plan approved by PHMSA within 120 days. Failure to comply may result in an assessment of civil penalties of as much as $100,000 per day.

Since Jan. 1, 2003, KMEP has experienced at least 44 accidents with some 14 resulting in the release of more than five barrels of refined petroleum products, some in or near environmentally sensitive areas or major transportation corridors.

"Our investigations into these incidents identified inadequacies in Kinder Morgan's interpretation of in-line inspection information to evaluate and repair their pipeline systems," said PHMSA Acting Chief Safety Officer Stacey Gerard. "It is imperative for operators to utilize the most comprehensive set of technologies available to improve their ability to consistently characterize and address every possible threat their systems pose to public safety."

Recent PHMSA investigations of these accidents, and reviews of KMEP's operations and procedures, prompted the agency order requiring KMEP to apply technologies and procedures to help evaluate its pipelines, Gerard said.

PHMSA pipeline engineers and agency State Pipeline Safety Program partners will continue to carefully monitor and scrutinize KMEP's activities.

Additional information on pipeline safety can be found at http://ops.dot.gov.

Federal Settlement With Nebraska Ethanol Company Valued At $5.5 Million

AGP Corn Processing Inc. has reached a Clean Air Act settlement with the federal government that will reduce air pollution produced by its ethanol manufacturing facility in Hastings, Neb. Under the settlement, announced on Aug. 30, the company will be required the company to install emission control equipment-valued at about $5.5 million-and mandates reductions in air pollution, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

The AGP facility was allegedly operating in violation of the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) provisions, which require a source to install pollution controls and undertake other pre-construction obligations to control air pollution emissions when there is new construction. Ethanol manufacturing facilities, such as AGP's plant, emit VOC's and CO. In addition to contributing to ground-level ozone (smog), VOC's can cause serious health problems such as cancer and other effects; CO is harmful because it reduces oxygen delivery to the body's organs and tissues.

The settlement, reached with the state of Nebraska, the Department of Justice and EPA, will result in annual reductions of 700 tons of VOCs, 35 tons of NOx, 80 tons of PM, 200 tons of CO, and 40 tons of hazardous air pollutants.

"The consent decree will ensure that AGP's Hastings ethanol plant will comply with the Clean Air Act and minimize its emissions of air pollutants, as it continues to provide an important new source of automobile fuel for the American public," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly Johnson, for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"Significant air pollution emission reductions will be achieved under this settlement," said Jim Gulliford, EPA Region 7 administrator. "The cooperation of the facility and the teamwork among agencies has resulted in an agreement that ensures that human and ecological health are protected."

Ethanol is primarily a corn product used as an automobile fuel alone or blended with gasoline. Ethanol's high oxygen content allows automobile engines to combust fuel better, resulting in reduced tail-pipe emissions. During the ethanol manufacturing process, dry mills burn off gasses which emit volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide into the air.

Under this consent decree, AGP's Hastings plant will install a thermal oxidizer that reduces VOC emissions by at least 95 percent from the feed dryers and meets new restrictive emission limits for NOx, PM, CO, and hazardous air pollutants. In addition to emission control requirements, the facility will also pay a civil penalty of $40,000. The penalty amount is similar to the amounts paid by other ethanol companies in previous Clean Air Act settlements.

Nebraska, through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, joined with the Justice Department and EPA in the settlement negotiations to resolve the company's alleged violations and to bring the facility into compliance.

The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska and is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court. To view the consent decree, go to http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

EPA Reaches Agreement With Potentially Responsible Parties At Arizona Superfund Site

On Aug. 30, EPA announced it reached agreements with eight more potentially responsible parties suspected of causing soil or groundwater contamination that may have contributed to the contamination at the Motorola 52nd Street Superfund site.

EPA signed agreements with the Salt River Project; Arizona Public Service Co. and Pinnacle West Capital Corp.; ArvinMeritor; AdobeAir; Cooper Industries; BDR Liquidating; and Phoenix Newspapers Inc. to investigate and identify potential sources of chlorinated solvents, such as trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene (PCE), and trichloroethane (TCA) at their respective facilities.

The companies also agreed to pay EPA costs for oversight of the investigation and past costs incurred for studying their facilities.

"In the end, this is about protecting and restoring the groundwater," said Keith Takata, the EPA's Superfund Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "These settlements will help us to identify whether there are other sources of contamination that may have contributed to groundwater contamination and help us close out the investigation phase and focus more on cleanup."

The Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site contains an area of groundwater contaminated with TCE, PCE and TCA.

Motorola, now Freescale Seminconductor, has operated a groundwater treatment plant at 52nd St. since 1992, and Freescale and Honeywell have operated a groundwater treatment plant at 20th St. since 2001. Soil and groundwater at the Honeywell 34th St. facility have been under investigation since the early 1990s.

Groundwater at the site, ranging from 40-90 feet below ground surface, is not used for drinking water. The city of Phoenix supplies drinking water primarily from surface water sources to water users living within the site. Drinking water is tested by the city to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

In September 2003, the EPA identified a group of parties that the agency believed were potentially responsible for causing contamination at the site due to potential or actual chlorinated solvent contamination at their facilities. EPA sent special notice letters to parties associated with these facilities requesting they conduct investigations.

EPA is in the process of completing the potentially responsible party search, and additional notice letters may be issued to more parties in the future.

For more information on the Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/waste/sfund/index.html.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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