Port Manatee company pays $1M penalty for 'environmental crimes'

MANATEE - A Delaware company has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty for "environmental crimes" at its Port Manatee facility, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa.

Kinder Morgan Port Manatee Terminal LLC operates a dry bulk material handling and storage facility at the port. It receives and ships materials such as granular fertilizers and cement clinker by railcar, truck and ship.

From 2001 through March 2008, the company's "baghouse" air pollutant control systems, which trap, filter and separate particulate matter, "were in poor condition, and several were not fully operational during the times specificed in various permits," a release from the U.S. attorney's office states.

Also, the company in 2006 and 2007 falsely stated in Florida Department of Environmental Protection permits that it would operate its pollution control systems correctly, and from October 2006 to March 2008, the company failed to notify the FDEP that its systems were not in compliance, according to the release.

The company has agreed to plead guilty to four separate violations of the Clean Air Act and to pay a $750,000 criminal fine. Additionally, it will make a $250,000 "community service payment" to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, and serve two years of probation and "implement an extensive environmental compliance plan," the news release states.

"Protecting the quality of the air we breathe must be a priority," said U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton in the news release. "Those who pollute the environment must be stopped and must pay for their illegal pollution."