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EPA fines Nevada energy company for failing to develop chemical risk management plan

Release Date: 12/21/2004
Contact Information: Laura Gentile (gentile.laura@epa.gov) - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled a case today with a Washoe County, Nev. geothermal energy facility that requires the company to pay $3,000 for failing to have a plan that outlines how the facility will handle any accidental chemical releases, as required by the Clean Air Act.

The company has already paid the penalty and submitted the plan.

Empire Energy, a geothermal facility located in Empire, Nev., failed to prepare a risk management plan by June 1999, as required by the EPA. The company submitted its plan to the EPA last June, four years after the deadline.

As part of a new enforcement policy, the EPA offered Empire a reduced penalty because the company acted quickly to correct the problem and pay the fine, and the facility presents a relatively low risk to the public.

"It is extremely critical that all facilities develop risk management plans to ensure the safety of area residents and to provide emergency responders with the information they need," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund division for the Pacific Southwest Region. "These plans are available to the public and can be useful for citizens in understanding the chemical hazards which may be present in their communities."

The EPA's regulations require all facilities using extremely hazardous substances above specified threshold quantities to develop risk management plans. Empire had more than 64,000 pounds of isopentane at its facility, which is more than six times the EPA's threshold quantity.

Isopentane, a component of gasoline, is a highly flammable chemical. Isopentane can irritate or burn skin and eyes through inhalation or contact with the skin.

The plan must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years, evaluation of worst-case scenarios and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.

Empire Energy LLC is part of the Empire group of companies including Empire Research and Empire Farms. The geothermal plant is located south of Empire in the San Emidio Desert approximately 100 miles north of Reno. The facility produces electricity for a geothermal power plant and for an onion and garlic dehydration plant operated by Empire Farms.