Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—November 6, 2014. In a settlement with the United States, three subsidiaries of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS), the world’s largest fertilizer producer, will take steps to reduce harmful air emissions at eight U.S. production plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice announced today. The settlement resolves claims that these PCS subsidiaries violated the Clean Air Act when they modified facilities in ways that released excess sulfur dioxide into surrounding communities.
The settlement requires PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer, AA Sulfuric Inc., and White Springs Agricultural Chemicals Inc. to install, upgrade and operate state-of-the-art pollution reduction measures, as well as install emissions monitors at eight sulfuric acid plants across facilities in Geismar, Louisiana (one plant), White Springs, Florida (four plants), and Aurora, North Carolina (three plants). The three companies will spend an estimated $50 million on these measures, and will pay a $1.3 million civil penalty.
“This agreement, the largest so far in our ongoing Clean Air Act enforcement efforts against sulfuric-acid producers, will ensure cleaner air for citizens across the Southeast and will send a strong signal to the industry that noncompliance has serious consequences,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Large industrial facilities that break the law and pollute the air will be held accountable,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case will bring these companies into compliance and require additional action to cut pollution to benefit communities, especially those most vulnerable to air pollution.” EPA expects the actions that the companies have agreed to take will reduce harmful emissions by over 13,090 tons per year, which includes approximately 12,600 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, 430 tons per year of ammonia and 60 tons per year of nitrogen oxide. In the future, the companies can also retire plants to comply with the settlement.
The settlement also includes a “supplemental environmental project,” estimated to cost between $2.5 and $4 million, to protect the community around a PCS Nitrogen nitric acid plant in Geismar, Louisiana, and requires PCS Nitrogen to install and operate equipment to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia. This project is part of EPA’s commitment to advancing environmental justice by reducing the disproportionate environmental impacts on communities near industrial facilities – in this instance, by reducing fine particulates that can aggravate respiratory disease.
Sulfur dioxide, the predominant pollutant emitted from sulfuric acid plants, has numerous adverse effects on human health and is a significant contributor to acid rain, smog and haze. Sulfur dioxide—along with nitrogen oxide—is converted in the air to particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death.
This settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from large sources of pollution, which includes acid production plants, under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements. It is the 10th settlement reached under EPA’s National Acid Manufacturing Plant Initiative and the 7th settlement addressing pollution from sulfuric acid plants. Today’s settlement covers more sulfuric acid production capacity—roughly 24,000 tons per day or approximately 14 percent of total U.S. capacity—than all previous sulfuric acid settlements under this initiative combined.
The settlement also resolves alleged violations based on Louisiana law at the Geismar, Louisiana, facility, and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will receive $350,000 of the $1.3 million penalty.
The settlement was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.