MIE fined, president to serve jail time

Marietta Industrial Enterprises will pay $50,000, and its president will spend two days in jail and nearly six months on home confinement after pleading guilty to failing to report violations of a permit under the federal Clean Air Act.

An attorney for the company said the violation stemmed from the company using an alternative pollution control measure but not notifying the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“The guilty plea from today only involves the company’s failure to report a deviation,” not excessive emissions, said Whitnie Kropp, legal counsel for MIE.

The pleas were entered Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and announced in a joint release from the Ohio Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s offices.

MIE agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of failing to report violations of the company’s permit, while President Scott Elliott pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of being an accessory after the fact for failure to notify, the release says.

“We will not tolerate an intentional failure to operate properly installed and permitted air pollution controls,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in the release. “This type of behavior threatens Ohioans with unnecessary pollutants.”

Under the plea agreement, which is still subject to the approval of U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, MIE will pay a $37,500 fine, with an additional $12,500 community service payment going to the Warren Township Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire department was not directly involved in the case. Kropp said the company chose the department as the entity to receive the payment.

“We were committed to making a donation that would be local to the Marietta area,” she said.

MIE is located on Ohio 7 in Warren Township.

The state and federal release says the situation involved MIE’s medium carbon ferromanganese alloy crushing line, emissions from which are controlled by a baghouse utilizing a large electric fan.

“According to court documents, company employees began turning off the fan when processing medium carbon sometime in 2006,” the release says.

The company’s permit requires it to disclose in quarterly and annual reports when the baghouse hasn’t operated properly, but the company did not do that, according to the release.

In its own release, MIE said the fan was turned off when processing materials that posed a fire or explosion hazard when accumulated in a confined space.

“MIE substituted alternative pollution control measures, but failed to notify EPA of the practice, as required by the Clean Air Act,” the MIE release says.

The alternative measures, including having the area enclosed, were allowed under the permit, Kropp said.

The practice stopped in 2009, and the company has since hired an environmental manager “and made compliance with federal and state environmental laws a company priority,” the MIE release says.

As part of his plea to the misdemeanor charge, Elliott agreed to a sentence of 48 consecutive hours in jail and five months and 28 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring.

“The maximum sentence is one year in jail,” said Elliott’s attorney, Robert Cochran, of Columbus. “This is the sentence that Mr. Elliott agreed to with the government.”

In addition, MIE said its upper management and owners will perform 200 hours of community service, with 100 hours to be performed by Elliott.

The company will also be on probation for three years and must correct any deficiencies identified in an environmental audit of its facilities, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart said in the government release.

“These steps will ensure safety for the community and employees going forward,” he said.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division jointly investigated the matter. During the investigation, a related civil case filed on behalf of OEPA against MIE in Washington County Common Pleas Court was put on hold, state officials said. The status of that case going forward was not clear Friday afternoon.