LSB Industries Inc. (LSB), the largest merchant manufacturer of concentrated nitric acid in North America, and four of its subsidiaries have agreed to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by meeting emission limits that are among the lowest for the industry in the nation at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice announced today.
EPA estimates that the measures required by today’s settlement will reduce NOx emissions by more than 800 tons per year, directly benefitting surrounding communities, which include low-income and minority populations living near the Arkansas and Texas plants. The companies estimate that it will cost between $6.3 and $11.7 million to implement the measures required by the settlement.
“With today’s settlement, LSB and its subsidiaries are further improving the nitric acid manufacturing process and reducing harmful air pollution across four states,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “In response to the Clean Air Act and state law claims, the companies have taken a constructive and cooperative approach by agreeing to implement global operational changes and mitigate past emissions. These actions raise the bar for compliance in this industry sector.”
“This case is about cleaner air for people living in communities near manufacturing plants,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “LSB Industries has committed to dramatic cuts in air pollution and ensuring they are in compliance with the law. We expect others in the industry to recognize the imperative to adopt reforms and reduce pollution in communities where they operate.”
LSB and its four nitric acid producing subsidiaries will also pay a total penalty of $725,000 to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and applicable Oklahoma state law. In addition to paying the penalty, the companies must continuously monitor emissions and make any necessary operational improvements such as installing new pollution controls or upgrading current controls to meet the new NOx limits.
The settlement applies to the 10 nitric acid manufacturing plants owned or operated by the following Oklahoma City-based LSB subsidiaries: El Dorado Chemical Co., in El Dorado, Ark. (four plants); Cherokee Nitrogen Co. in Cherokee, Ala. (two plants); El Dorado Nitrogen Co. in Pryor, Okla. (three plants); and El Dorado Nitrogen Co. in Baytown, Texas (one plant). The complaint, filed concurrently with the settlement, alleges that the Cherokee, El Dorado and Pryor subsidiaries constructed or made modifications to their plants that resulted in increased emissions of NOx without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing pollution controls. The complaint does not allege any violations regarding the Texas facility.
Today’s action is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including acid manufacturing facilities. High concentrations of NOx in the air can irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. Continued or frequent exposure may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children. Further, airborne NOx can significantly contribute to acid rain and lead to the formation of smog.
The companies have also agreed to spend $150,000 to remediate and reforest ten acres of land with acidified soils located near El Dorado, Ark. NOx emissions, such as those from nitric acid plants, can contribute to soil acidification. The project will help to minimize erosion, reduce stormwater runoff, improve habitat for wildlife and capture carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
The states of Oklahoma and Alabama are co-plaintiffs in today’s settlement and will receive a portion of the total penalty as follows: $206,250 will be paid to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and $156,250 will be paid to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
LSB, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., is a major producer of nitrogen-based fertilizers, including anhydrous ammonia, urea and ammonium nitrate. The company owns and operates the largest fleet of concentrated nitric acid rail cars in the United States. LSB and its subsidiaries produce nitric acid for use in products that include herbicides, metal treatment, explosives and pharmaceuticals.
The consent decree, lodged in U.D. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. The consent decree is available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html .
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