EPA Reaches Clean Air Settlement with Tyson Foods


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced a settlement with Tyson Foods, Inc., along with several of its affiliates, over violations of the Clean Air Act that occurred between 2006 and 2010.  These violations included the accidental release of toxic anhydrous ammonia in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri that resulted in property damage, multiple injuries to workers, and one death. 

The EPA considers anhydrous ammonia extremely hazardous.  “Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause serious health issues, and in extreme cases, even death,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a press release.

Under the settlement’s consent decree, Tyson (96 on the Fortune 500 list) is required to conduct third-party Clean Air Act compliance audits at all 23 facilities involved in the case, pay a $3.95 million penalty, and purchase $300,000 in emergency response equipment for communities in which they operate.  As Giles noted, these are positive developments: “Today’s settlement with Tyson Foods will ensure the proper safety practices are in place in the future to protect employees, first responders, and communities located near processing facilities from the threat of dangerous chemical releases.”  

Tyson is one of the world's largest meat processors, with $750 million in profits in 2011, and the penalties represent a little over half a percent of the company’s profits, which may not be much of a disincentive to prevent future harm to its workers.

Nick Anway contributed to this post.

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