Home > Uncategorized > EPA Takes Dupont’s Lunch Money For CFC Leaks At South Jersey Facility

EPA Takes Dupont’s Lunch Money For CFC Leaks At South Jersey Facility

Once Again, EPA Proves That Corporate Crime Does Pay


[Update: 1/9/15 – Of course, Dupont denies the problem, South Jersey Times story:

In a response to that, plant manager Dawn M. Hughes made a statement indicating that the DuPont Chambers Works reached an agreement with the EPA related to the record keeping allegations and audits done by the agency in 2007 and 2009.

“There were no allegations that the site had any un-permitted emissions or that any impact was made to human health or the environment from these procedural issues,” Hughes said in a statement. “Under the settlement, DuPont reviewed all of its Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right–to-Know requirements to ensure that all areas of alleged non-compliance have been addressed.”

Dupont’s statement conflicts with EPA’s statement – Worse, Dupont left out the improper maintenance violation, which is NOT a “procedural” violation, so Dupont flat out lied, by omission and commission:

 The EPA fined DuPont for improper maintenance and repair of two large refrigeration units. When properly maintained, the systems are designed to minimize chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from leaking into the environment. CFCs damage the ozone layer, which shields the earth from harmful radiation that contributes to increased skin cancer.  ~~~ end update]

The protection of public health and the environment is dependent on the enforcement of environmental laws. Without vigorous enforcement, the laws are mere words on a piece of paper.

But the American law and order mentality that throws poor and black people into cages for years for minor non-violent drug offenses doesn’t seem to apply to white collar corporate crimes – like the crimes committed on Wall Street and by powerful corporate polluters, like Dupont.

Most environmental violations are not criminal – even major ones like the BP Gulf oil well blowout that poison vast areas – but instead are administrative in nature that result in fines, not prison sentences.

And there’s no “three strikes you’re out”, even for repeat, knowing, and flagrant violations.

Which takes us to the subject matter of this post, an EPA enforcement fine issued to the Dupont Corporation’s south Jersey Chambers-Works facility in Deepwater, NJ on the Delaware River.

While environmental enforcement penalties don’t typically involve jail time, the economic penalty is supposed to punish the violator, reflect the gravity of the violation, and capture the economic benefit of non-compliance.

It is also supposed to be big enough to provide deterrence to prevent future violations.

EPA just issued a fine to Dupont of $531,000 for leaks of CFC’s at the Chambers-Works plant. [*see EPA press release]

CFC’s are refrigerants whose manufacture was banned under the 1987 Montreal Protocol because they destroy the earth’s ozone layer, allowing dangerous ultraviolet radiation to rain down on the planet, causing things like increases in skin cancers.

Imagine that – destroy the atmosphere of the entire planet and increase cancer risks for billions of people, and merely pay a small fine. But smoke some crack cocaine and you can be put in a cage in solitary confinement for the rest of your life. USA! USA! USA!

That Dupont corporation and the Chambers-works plant have a notorious history of killing workers and poisoning host communities and polluting the environment.

But these egregious abuses are not a figment of the bad old days: most recently, Dupont killed 4 workers in Texas, and the NJ Supreme Court found that Dupont had engaged in “torture” of  a whistleblower, a man who worked in the deadly phosgene gas unit there.

In absolute terms, $531,000 is peanuts, given the damage that CFC’s do to the entire earth’s ozone layer and imposing increased skin  cancer risks on billions of people.

In relative terms, $531,000 is less than lunch money for Dupont, one of the worlds largest chemical companies with billion dollar revenues.

In terms of deterrence, it provides none, because $531,000 is a minor cost of doing business.

In terms of the economic benefits Dupont received from non-compliance, I don’t have enough info to respond.

All in all, less than a slap on the wrist – just another minor cost of doing business.

EPA slaps DuPont with $531K fine for CFC leaks in N.J.

Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2015

NEW YORK — U.S. EPA today fined DuPont $531,000 for chlorofluorocarbon leaks at a massive chemical plant on the shores of the Delaware River.

The fine, assessed by EPA Region 2, was directed at the 19th-century era Chambers Works Complex, which once produced black gunpowder and has manufactured more than 1,200 chemicals since going into operation in 1892.

EPA said the leaks were from two giant refrigerators that have a capacity of 3,000 pounds of CFCs. The units are used in the chemical production process.

CFCs are known to damage the ozone layer, which shields the planet from radiation linked to skin cancer. EPA said in a release that DuPont has acknowledged and fixed the problem and will comply with the fine.

Because of the age of the Chambers complex, once known as the Carneys Point plant in Carneys Point, N.J., the facility has a history of safety issues associated with chemical research including asbestos exposure. The plant also has a reputation for innovation and has been the home of several inventions, including Teflon in 1938.

The fine has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and is subject to a 30-day review process. DuPont is not expected to challenge the fine.

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