Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agreement with Patriot Shield Pennsylvania, LLC Allows Resumption

Pittsburgh, PA (STL.News) The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has entered into a consent order and agreement (COA) with Patriot Shield Pennsylvania, LLC (Patriot Shield), a hemp drying, processing, and storage facility in Jeannette, Westmoreland County, addressing air quality violations.  This COA replaces the administrative order issued by DEP on November 27, 2019, which stemmed from several citizen complaints of malodors.

Since issuance of the administrative order that required Patriot Shield to cease operation, DEP verified compliance with the order, met with the operator, and conducted an inspection of the facility that included a limited demonstration of the hemp processing operation to assist the department in evaluating Patriot Shield’s process.  DEP received a request for determination of minor significance (RFD) from the company on December 6 for processing and storage and determined on December 17 that those specific activities are exempt from plan approval or permitting requirements.  Accordingly, Patriot may engage in hemp processing and storage activities as documented in the RFD.

This COA imposes additional monitoring and odor abatement requirements on Patriot Shield, requiring the company to conduct a technical study into technologies and equipment for ventilation and odor control for the facility and to apply to install such equipment as appropriate.  This agreement does not affect the authority of other government entities; Patriot Shield is obligated to comply with all applicable local, county, state, and federal laws and regulations.

However, Patriot Shield is still prohibited from drying hemp unless and until it receives separate authorization from DEP.  Drying operations are seasonal and not anticipated to resume until September 2020.  If the operator wishes to conduct drying operations in 2020 and beyond, it must submit an RFD including an odor control plan before March 2020.

Under the COA, Patriot Shield is assessed a civil penalty of $29,000 with a schedule for payment.  Importantly, the operator is subject to an escalating scale of stipulated penalties for future malodor violations that start at $8,000 and can grow to as much as $25,000 for the fourth day of violation.

The COA imposes a tighter enforcement standard for odors on Patriot Shield than the regulations provide. State regulations define malodor as “an odor which causes annoyance or discomfort to the public and which the department determines to be objectionable to the public,” and is subject to enforcement action if DEP verifies that the malodor exists outside the property lineOpens In A New Window of the operation.  In other words, the regulations require corroboration of the malodor between the public and DEP.  In contrast, this COA prohibits objectionable odors and allows DEP to independently verify malodors without also receiving citizen complaints.  DEP will continue to conduct periodic inspections and respond to any citizen complaints related to Patriot Shield’s operations.

As the hemp industry in Pennsylvania matures, DEP reminds small businesses (with up to 100 employees) that the Pennsylvania Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP)Opens In A New Window offers free and confidential assistance with application writing, emission calculations, compliance assistance, help them with the technological understanding of air quality equipment, and more.  Additional resources for small business that may be subject to environmental regulatory requirements are available through DEP’s Small Business Ombudsman’s Office.