WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that CalPortland Company (CPC), a major producer of Portland cement and building materials in the United States, has agreed to pay a $1.425 million penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its cement plant in Mojave, Calif. In addition to the penalty, CPC will spend an estimated $1.3 million on pollution controls that will reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), pollutants that can lead to childhood asthma and smog.
“This settlement will bring state of the art controls to a major source of air pollution and secures significant reductions in harmful pollutants,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Mojave plant is one of the largest emitters of nitrogen oxide pollution in California. As a result of the Clean Air Act compliance requirements in the consent decree, residents in the surrounding region will enjoy cleaner and healthier air.”
“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, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will ensure the proper pollution controls are installed to reduce emission levels and protect communities across the Southwest.”
The $1.425 million penalty is one of the largest settlements for a single cement facility.
The plant is located in Kern County, Calif., which has some of the worst air pollution in the country. The pollutants covered in the settlement contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone or smog. Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause respiratory problems, and repeated exposure can aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.
“The citizens of Kern County deserve to have clean and healthy air,” stated Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “The significant penalty that the defendant will pay, along with the pollution controls it is installing, underscore the commitment of this office and the Justice Department to protecting the air our children breathe and the environment they live in.”
The government’s complaint 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.
The settlement ensures that the proper equipment, estimated to cost $1.3 million to install and $500,000 per year to operate, will be installed to reduce future emission levels. These measures are expected to reduce pollution each year from the plant by at least 1,200 tons of NOx and 360 tons of SO2.
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 is continuing its commitment to reducing air pollution from cement plants by making it one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. SO2 and NOx, two key pollutants emitted from cement plants, are converted in the air into fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near the CalPortland facility, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children.
The proposed consent decree was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department website: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html .
More information on the settlement: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/calportland.html .
More about EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives: