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U.S. EPA CITES CONTRACTOR, HOMEOWNERS UNDER NEW PENALTY AUTHORITY

U.S. EPA CITES CONTRACTOR, HOMEOWNERS UNDER NEW PENALTY AUTHORITY
 SAN FRANCISCO, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today proposed a $24,000 penalty against a building contractor and the owners of a Honolulu condominium for violating National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) regulations during removal of an asbestos-tainted ceiling.
 The case is part of a nationwide filing of more than 50 Clean Air Act enforcement actions under U.S. EPA's new, streamlined administrative penalty authority. U.S. EPA is filing administrative cases in 26 states and Puerto Rico, proposing penalties of more than $4 million in enforcing a wide variety of Clean Air Act regulations.
 "The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments give U.S. EPA administrative penalty authority, an important new enforcement tool that will result in greater compliance with the Act at less cost both to government and to the regulated community," said U.S. EPA Administrator William K. Reilly. "Today's initiative demonstrates U.S. EPA's intention to use this new enforcement authority, and the Bush Administration's firm commitment to enforcing all of this nation's environmental laws vigorously."
 In the Honolulu case, U.S. EPA filed a civil complaint against Tapers Extreme, the contractor, and Drew Criss and Carolyn Standring, the condominium owners who hired Tapers, for not taking required safeguards to protect public health when they removed a water-damaged ceiling that contained asbestos. Tapers is not licensed as either an asbestos or general contractor.
 The complaint charges that Tapers failed to keep asbestos- containing material wet during removal as required by NESHAP egulations. Instead, the company left dry asbestos debris around the removal site, possibly exposing the occupants and neighbors to this hazardous substance. In addition, a truck used to transport the debris was not marked during loading and unloading of the material. Tapers, Criss and Standring also failed to notify U.S. EPA of the renovation in advance or keep any records that the asbestos was disposed of properly.
 Prior to the 1990 Amendments, U.S. EPA's civil enforcement of the Clean Air Act was accomplished primarily through judicial actions in federal court. The 1990 Amendments provided U.S. EPA with a set of enforcement tools tailored to different types of violations. The new administrative penalty authority in today's initiative is designed to address violations that are less than a year old through the assessment of penalties below $200,000. U.S. EPA's new field citation program, still under development, will be used to assess penalties of $5,000 or less for minor violations of the Act. U.S. EPA will continue to use judicial enforcement to address longer-term, more complex violations of the Act that necessitate higher penalties or court-ordered injunctive relief.
 When U.S. EPA issues administrative complaints (also called administrative penalty orders), the defendant can either pay the penalty amount proposed in the complaint, or answer the complaint within 30 days and request a hearing in front of a U.S. EPA administrative law judge. These administrative hearings offer both defendants and U.S. EPA a streamlined method of litigating a dispute, one which often reduces litigation costs for both parties. Either U.S. EPA or the defendant can appeal the judge's decision to the new U.S. EPA Environmental Appeals Board. U.S. EPA cannot appeal the Environmental Appeals Board ruling, but the defendant can appeal to the U.S. District Court.
 U.S. EPA's proposed administrative penalties in these cases are based on two factors: the "gravity" of the violation (the violation's seriousness measured by factors such as its duration and environmental effects) and the economic benefit that the violator obtained by not complying with the Act. By insisting on penalties for the full amount of any economic benefit, U.S. EPA ensures that the regulated parties do not receive an unfair economic advantage from violating the Act.
 One-third of the 52 cases filed nationally today will enforce new U.S. EPA regulations requiring the installation and certification of emissions monitoring equipment to measure sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide emissions from fuel gas lines. Another third of the cases enforce air toxics standards for asbestos and benzene, while the remaining cases enforce a broad variety of U.S. EPA regulations for new pollution sources, as well as opacity (smoke density) and airborne particulate matter (dust, dirt, soot) standards.
 -0- 5/20/92
 /CONTACT: Bill Glenn of U.S. EPA, 415-744-1589/ CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ST: Hawaii IN: SU:


MM -- SF016 -- 2576 05/20/92 19:07 EDT
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Date:May 20, 1992
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