Portland cement producer CalPortland Co. has agreed to pay a $1.425 million fine and spend $1.3 million on pollution controls to resolve federal clean air violations alleged at its California plant.
|Founded in 1891, CalPortland provides cement, ready mixed concrete, aggregate, asphalt, construction services and other building materials across the Western U.S. and Canada.|
The settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice stems from emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) at CalPortland’s cement plant in Mojave, CA.
Those pollutants are converted in the air into fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death.
The $1.425 million penalty is one of the largest settlements ever for a single cement facility, federal authorities said.
The plant is located in Kern County, CA, home to some of the nation’s worst air pollution. The pollutants covered in the settlement contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog.
The government alleges that CPC “made significant modifications to its plant, resulting in increased emissions of NOx, SO2 and carbon monoxide, without first obtaining a Clean Air Act-required permit and without installing necessary pollution control equipment.”
Major sources of air pollution are required to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.
‘Proper Pollution Controls’
The settlement ensures the installation of equipment to reduce future emissions, authorities said. The equipment, which will cost about $1.3 million to install and $500,000 per year to operate, is expected to reduce at least 1,200 tons of NOx and 360 tons of SO2 emissions each year at the plant.
“Air pollution from cement plants can travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide air quality and health problems,” said Cynthia Giles, who directs EPA’s enforcement office.
“Today’s settlement will ensure the proper pollution controls are installed to reduce emission levels and protect communities across the Southwest.”
Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno called the Mojave plant “one of the largest emitters of nitrogen oxide pollution in California” and said the settlement “secures significant reductions in harmful pollutants.”
Focus on Cement Makers
Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause respiratory problems, and repeated exposure can aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.
Since 2005, EPA has been focusing on improving compliance with the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing industry.
EPA has proposed tighter rules on mercury emissions and other air pollutants at cement plants. The measure, set to take effect in 2013, is currently tied up in litigation by the cement industry, which says the rules may cost $3.4 billion and shutter 18 of 100 plants.
EPA says the cost would not exceed $950 million.
EPA has also announced that it will keep cement plant emissions in the spotlight as one of the National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013.
The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.