Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens have announced an amended settlement with Lafarge North America, a cement supplier that operates a plant in Ravena, Albany County. The new settlement gives Lafarge 18 more months to construct a new kiln with advanced pollution controls, while tightening their air pollution emission limits.
In 2010, an original consent decree between the Environmental Protection Agency, 12 states including New York and Lafarge was established to limit pollutant emissions from its 13 plants across the country. The Ravena plant was given two options as to how it could meet these limits, by either retrofitting the kilns already in use with pollution controls or to construct a new kiln with state-of-the-art pollution controls by the start of 2015.
Lafarge chose to design a new kiln but requested an extension of its January 1, 2015 deadline citing the cement industry's slower-than-expected recovery from the 2008 recession. The company will now have until July 1, 2016 to construct the kiln.
"DEC is committed to demonstrating that New York can preserve the quality of our environment while supporting economic development," said Commissioner Martens. "The amended settlement will yield cleaner air while enabling Lafarge to continue with its plan to modernize the Ravena plant, creating and preserving jobs in the process."
In exchange for the 18-month extension, Lafarge will have to reduce its nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions even more than the company was required to in the 2010 agreement. The amended consent decree will cap sulfur dioxide emissions at levels 20 percent lower than what was required in 2010 and keep nitrogen oxide emissions at the level required by the original consent decree.
Lafarge must also cut its mercury emissions by 25 percent of the current level permitted this year and even further limit mercury levels to what they would have been had the kiln been ready by January 1, 2015. Emissions of these pollutants greatly contribute to acid rain, smog and soot pollution.
"Safeguarding the health of the community surrounding the Ravena plant is our top priority," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. "This agreement will reduce the pollution limits required by the settlement at this facility by providing a significant amount of funding for projects that will improve local air quality."
In addition to new emissions limits, Lafarge is required to devote $1.5 million to new emission reduction projects at the Ravena plant and in the surrounding areas, one of those being the replacement of the plant's old diesel-locomotive with a locomotive using advanced pollution controls. The state will call upon residents within 30 miles of the plant to give their input on appropriate projects the company can invest in that will directly affect the surrounding community.
"This settlement will improve the air in Ravena and the surrounding area, while helping to ensure jobs stay in the community," Schneiderman said. "My office will work to ensure Lafarge complies fully with this settlement, meets its obligations to modernize the Ravena operations, and continues to advance air quality in the Ravena area."