Hershey Creamery Fined in First RMP Prosecution

A central Pennsylvania business has entered a guilty plea in federal court in what is the first prosecution of its type under the federal Clean Air Act. The Hershey Creamery Co. pled guilty to a Clean Air Act felony involving its failure to develop and implement a Risk Management Program (RMP) at two of its facilities in Pennsylvania, said Martin C. Carlson, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and David M. Dillon, special agent in charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Philadelphia Area Office in a Nov. 3 press release. The company was immediately sentenced to pay a $100,000 fine and placed on one year of probation.

Hershey, a Pennsylvania ice cream manufacturer and distributor headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., entered the plea in federal court in Harrisburg. The charge concerns the company's failure to develop and implement a RMP for the storage and use of anhydrous ammonia, between Sept. 30, 2004 and April, 2007, after twice certifying to EPA that it had developed such a plan.

"Risk Management Programs are not simply 'papers on a shelf,'" said Dillon. "They protect workers, the community, and the environment by reducing the likelihood and seriousness of a release of potentially harmful substances, and companies that do not take their obligations seriously will be prosecuted."

Carlson also underscored the importance of this landmark prosecution: "We are all stewards of our environment. The Clean Air Act is an important measure protecting our environment, and the act's requirement that businesses have appropriate Risk Management Programs is an essential aspect of this environmental stewardship mandated by law. This prosecution sends a vital message that these laws must be followed, and those who make false statements regarding their compliance with the law face serious criminal sanctions."

Anhydrous ammonia is a refrigerant used in food processing facilities, and Hershey stored and used approximately 42,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its plant in downtown Harrisburg not far from the state Capitol and approximately 23,000 pounds at its Middletown facility.

Anhydrous ammonia is regulated under the CAA because it is flammable and can irritate both the skin and eyes. The CAA regulations required Hershey to develop and implement a Risk Management Program for each facility to, among other things, protect worker safety, minimize the chance of a release from refrigeration processes at the facilities that would endanger workers and surrounding communities, and to develop and implement prevention and emergency response plans.

An inspection by EPA concluded that the company lacked viable RMPs at either plant. After a follow-up investigation, EPA issued Hershey a detailed CAA civil compliance order Dec. 7, 2006, identifying specific areas where the company had failed to comply. The agency ordered Hershey to develop and implement RMPs for both plants, with specific dates identified for compliance with major tasks. Hershey submitted RMPs satisfactory to the agency in April, 2007. EPA has since inspected both facilities and found that the company was executing the RMPs satisfactorily.

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