WASHINGTON—In the largest settlement yet in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing cement kiln enforcement initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA, today lodged a consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California resolving Clean Air Act claims against CEMEX California Cement LLC with respect to the company’s Victorville, Calif., Portland cement plant.
The settlement will resolve claims asserted in a 2007 complaint that CEMEX is releasing pollutants to the air, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, without required permits setting emission limits under the Clean Air Act. Under the terms of the settlement, CEMEX must meet new limits for these pollutants at the Victorville plant, one of the largest cement plants in the United States, including stringent new limits for nitrogen oxide that will reduce emissions by 1,890 tons per year, a nearly 40 percent reduction. The cement manufacturer must also pay a $2 million civil penalty. EPA estimates that achieving and maintaining compliance with the new emission limits, depending on the control technology used, could cost CEMEX millions of dollars.
“Today’s settlement shows the federal government’s continued commitment to enforcing the federal environmental laws and protecting the nation’s air quality,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
“This settlement will result in cleaner air for California,” said Deborah Jordan, director of the EPA’s Air Division in the Pacific Southwest region. “This facility is the largest source of nitrogen oxide—an air pollutant that causes smog—in California, so the state-of-the-art air pollution controls that CEMEX is installing will have a significant impact on air quality.”
The settlement resolves the EPA’s claims that on two separate occasions, in 1997 and 2000, CEMEX violated the Clean Air Act by undertaking major plant modifications resulting in significant increases in the Victorville plant’s capacity to pollute without first undergoing required regulatory review or obtaining required permits under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, program and without installing state-of-the-art emission controls that would reduce contaminants such as nitrogen oxide.
Nitrogen oxide is a harmful air pollutant that causes smog and leads to respiratory problems in children and the elderly. The Victorville area fails to meet federal air quality standards for both ozone and particulate matter.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. For more information on the settlement and the Clean Air Act, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/index.html.