Hawaii Gas fined $155,000 for EPA violations

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Hawaii Gas is paying $155,000 in fines for violations at its Kapolei facility, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday. The facility manufactures synthetic natural gas for use on Oahu.

During an audit in January 2012, EPA inspectors found several violations of the risk management plan regulations, which included a failure to annually certify that its operating procedures were current and accurate, and a failure to provide refresher training to employees to assure they understand and adhere to the procedures.

Hawaii Gas agreed to pay a penalty of $136,000 and the violations were corrected.

“Risk management plans are critical components of safety programs designed to prevent chemical accidents,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “They must be carried out diligently to protect workers, nearby residents and the local environment.”

On September 4, 2010, Hawaii Gas released 3,585 pounds of sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda or lye, into a permitted underground injection well. The release was only reported to state and local authorities and not to the federal National Response Center, as required by law.

The company agreed to pay a penalty of $19,000. There were no health or environmental impacts from the release.

The following is a statement from Jill Tokunaga, VP Sales Marketing and Communications, Hawaii Gas:

Hawaii Gas takes workplace and environmental health and safety very seriously. It is an important priority for us. We take responsibility for any violations that have occurred, and have worked cooperatively with the EPA to immediately address any issues with environmental compliance and we are now in full conpliance. At no point was there any threat to the safety of the public or our employees.Over the past two years we have updated and implemented new procedures, systems and training at the SNG Plant.

To provide greater executive oversight in this area, we have hired Jack Grimmer as Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety and Quality Assurance. Jack has over 25 years of experience in EHS, and will focus on setting the strategic direction of the department, while overseeing compliance, technical training and quality assurance. He reports directly to President & CEO, Alicia Moy.

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