Thursday, April 04, 2019

The EPA is a joke

In theory, New Zealand has tough environmental law. The use or storage of persistent organic pollutants is a criminal offence and punishable by imprisonment or a fine of up to $500,000 plus $50,000 a day. This is supplemente dby a pecuniary penalty order regime allowing companies to be fined up to $10 million for breaches of the Act.

PFOSs and PFOAs are persistent organic pollutants which have been banned under the Act for over a decade. Their possession and storage is thus a criminal offence. A recent Environmental Protection Agency audit found these illegal chemicals were illegally stored at 13 sites around New Zealand. But no-one is going to be prosecuted for it:

The Environmental Protection Authority won't be prosecuting anyone found with the banned firefighting foam despite an investigation revealing several companies with it.

The EPA today released the results of its nationwide investigation into foam containing toxic PFOS and PFOA, dubbed "forever chemicals" as they are long-lasting and accumulate in people's livers.

It looked at 166 sites and found foam stocks at 13 of them, mostly at airports and petrochemical plants.

It was "surprising" to find any foam concentrate at all, given it was banned in 2006 in New Zealand, EPA chief executive Allan Freeth said.

"I don't think we've taken a softly-softly approach," he said.

"It came down to, was there deliberate and wilful breaching of the Act? We found no indication that there was.

"There was ignorance, that is certainly true."

When something has been banned for this long, and there have been news stories about it poisoning our water for the last two years, then ignorance is simply not credible. The breach of the law is pretty much wilful by definition. But I guess prosecution would simply be too much work for the EPA. They'd rather be paid to do nothing instead.