North / South America
Lafarge to pay state in pact
Jan, 22 2010
National pollution settlement designed to curb emissions; $490,000 to fund projects
(RAVENA, New York) -- A 1960s-era cement plant in Ravena must cut emissions under a national pollution settlement announced Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department and 13 states.
The agreement calls for Lafarge North America, which operates two coal-fired cement kilns off Route 9W and a dozen other cement plants nationwide, to install pollution control equipment for sulfur dioxide (SO2), the cause of acid rain, and nitrogen oxide (NOX), a component of smog that can trigger respiratory illnesses.
Also, the Virginia-based company will pay $490,000 to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for energy-efficiency and pollution-reduction projects within a 30-mile radius of the Ravena plant.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, the consent degree under the 1977 Clean Air Act requires Lafarge, the nation's second-largest cement manufacturer, to install pollution controls at an expected cost of up to $170 million.
At Ravena, emissions reductions will be significant. From 2004-06, the plant annually emitted an average of 5,218 tons of NOX and 11,792 tons of SO2, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Under the agreement, Lafarge can emit no more than 3,250 tons of NOX by January 2014, and 2,000 tons of SO2 by January 2015.
"Lafarge must eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution each year from its cement plants, and at the same time has plans to modernize the Ravena plant," said State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "These improvements will contribute to cleaner air in our state, while positioning the Ravena facility to remain an important local provider of jobs and economic benefits."
Lafarge will pay a civil penalty and provide environmental remediation funding of about $5 million. Of that, $3.4 million will go to the federal government, and the remainder will be divided among New York, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois and Washington.
Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department, said the agreement settled a history of violations of the Clean Air Act by Lafarge, although she refused to speculate on the extent or duration of the alleged violations, or the maximum penalty that the Justice Department could have imposed on the company if the violations were proven.
Under a complaint filed by the Justice Department, the Lafarge plant allegedly had been in violation of the Clean Air Act since 1984. According to the complaint, violations carry civil penalties of between $25,000 to $37,500 a day depending the year of the violation. Based on that rate, Lafarge faced a total potential penalty in excess of $250 million.
"Lafarge North America remains firm in its belief that it has operated its plants in an environmentally responsible manner and in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act," said Sylvain Garnaud, president of Lafarge North America's Cement Division. "That said, we also firmly believe that industry leaders like Lafarge have to work with local, state and federal authorities to find solutions to the most challenging problems."
Lafarge had previously announced that it intends to replace the kilns will less-polluting new models by 2016. Under the settlement, Lafarge must commit by the end of this year to moving forward with the upgrade.
Community activists in Ravena welcomed the deal. "This confirms for us that Lafarge has indeed been violating the law, and that all levels of government, environmental and public health advocacy organizations, and community residents should continue to focus efforts on reducing all toxic air emissions from the Lafarge cement plant," said Elyse Kunz, a co-founder of Community Advocates for Safe Emissions, a Ravena citizens' group formed in 2008 to urge pollution reductions at the plant.
The federal settlement came as DEC considers a new air pollution permit for the Ravena plant that for the first time would limit emissions of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.
A proposed permit would limit mercury emissions to 176 pounds a year -- a level that would preserve the Ravena plant's status as the state's second-largest airborne mercury polluter. CASE wants its mercury output reduced to 69 pounds annually to reflect proposed limits being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A 2008 company study, done at the request of DEC, estimated annual mercury emissions at 146 pounds. This spring, DEC set the annual emissions at 167 pounds after reviewing the Lafarge report. And from 2003 to 2006, the company had reported mercury emissions of between 380 and 400 pounds a year in its submissions to EPA.
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
Molins purchases mothballed Cemex assets. More
York Potash offer lifeline to Newbridge Quarry. More