EPA announces $1.4 million settlement over alleged chemical accident prevention violations

April 16, 2024

[USA] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalised a settlement with Sasol Chemicals (Sasol) over alleged violations of the chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act at the company’s facility in Westlake, Louisiana.

Under the settlement, Sasol will pay more than $1.4 million in civil penalties and correct violations related to an October 2022 fire at the facility, as well as those found during a compliance evaluation in 2021.

From January through July 2021, EPA conducted a Virtual Partial Compliance Evaluation (VPCE) of the Sasol facility under chemical accident prevention requirements of the Clean Air Act, including Section 112(r) and the General Duty Clause. On October 15, 2022, during the process to settle alleged violations found during the evaluation, a fire occurred at Sasol that resulted in a shelter-in-place order for the Westlake area. The settlement announced addresses violations from the evaluation and the fire.

Under the settlement, Sasol will pay a civil penalty of $1,441,712.00. Sasol will also undertake several actions to resolve alleged violations, such as improving systems and procedures to assure timely completion of the Process Hazardous Analysis recommendations, improving inspections and procedures to maintain mechanical integrity of process equipment, addressing and resolving overdue compliance audits findings, improving safety systems designed to detect potential hazards, updating written and operating procedures to ensure the safe conducting of work activities, and improving implementation practices of operating procedures at the facility.

The injunctive relief in the settlement aligns with new amendments to the Risk Management Program announced on 1 March 2024, that require stronger measures for prevention, preparedness, and public transparency.

The “Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule” protects the health and safety of all communities by requiring industry to prevent accidental releases of dangerous chemicals that could cause deaths and injuries, damage property and the environment, or require surrounding communities to evacuate or shelter-in-place. The rule requires regulated facilities to perform a “safer technologies and alternatives” analysis, and in some cases, facilities will be required to implement reliable safeguard measures.

Under this settlement, Sasol will develop and implement safe work practices for the pressure testing of related process equipment to avoid further chemical accidental releases like the fire and shelter-in-place that occurred on 15 October 2022.

United States Environmental Protection Agency

This is valid as of the 16th April 2024.

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