FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEEPA (202) 564-4355
THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2001DOJ (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
AIR LIQUIDE AGREES TO SETTLEMENT WITH U.S. RESOLVING
ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS IN 18 STATES
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a ground-breaking Clean Air Act settlement with Air Liquide America Corporation to replace refrigerant chemicals that destroy the earth's stratospheric ozone layer with environmentally friendly alternatives.
The United States charged Air Liquide with illegally releasing ozone-depleting gases from industrial process refrigeration systems at 22 facilities located in 18 states. The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, requires Air Liquide to convert all its industrial refrigeration systems now using regulated ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to systems using alternative, environmentally friendly refrigerants. The company also will fund an "environmental justice" supplemental project that will benefit a lower income, predominately minority community in Louisiana, and pay a $4.5 million civil penalty.
"Air Liquide's actions are an excellent example of cooperation between a company and the government to find a solution that averts further damage to the ozone-layer and involves tangible measures that preserve an undisturbed area of land from future development," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
The ozone layer is located in the upper atmosphere 30 miles above the earth's surface. This layer of gas screens individuals from the sun's powerful and harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. Increased radiation also can damage important food crops and marine ecosystems.
Air Liquide America Corporation is a subsidiary of L'Air Liquide, SA, Paris France, the world's largest manufacturer of industrial and medical gases, such as super-cooled liquid oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases. The company's cryogenic manufacturing facilities use large industrial refrigeration systems containing ozone-depleting substances regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Under the settlement Air Liquide will replace or completely retrofit 46 industrial refrigeration systems to coolant methods that are environmentally benign, and will retire seven more systems which use ozone-depleting refrigerants. The company also will dedicate an undeveloped parcel of land having ecological value as open or "green" space in the industrialized area of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. This land will not be used for industrial purposes in the future and is considered an "environmental justice" supplemental project aimed at benefitting the primarily lower income, predominately minority community. The project is valued at $422,000. Additionally, the company will donate a two-acre parcel of land it owns in Westlake, Louisiana to the Carlyss Fire Department for a new two-bay fire and emergency response station. This particular project is valued at about $78,000.
Air Liquide could have continued to use regulated, ozone-depleting refrigerants in these systems for an indefinite period of time, provided the company complied with CAA requirements. Instead, the company chose to voluntarily revamp its refrigeration processes. "We commend Air Liquide for its good faith in seeking to offset the past excessive leaks of ozone-depleting refrigerants by making these efforts to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances all together," said John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
Scientists worldwide have concluded that CFCs damage the stratospheric ozone layer, which already is significantly depleted over Antarctica, and, to a lesser extent, over North America, Europe and other populated areas. When allowed to escape into the air, the CFC molecule breaks apart releasing chlorine, which then attacks the earth's protective ozone layer. A single chlorine atom can destroy more than 100,000 ozone molecules.
The U.S. and more than 100 countries have agreed to end production of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. The CAA contains many measures to protect the ozone layer, including a ban on venting into the air CFC refrigerant from air conditioners and small appliances. Additionally, the U.S. has committed to reducing emissions of ozone-depleting substances to their "lowest achievable level" at manufacturing and industrial facilities.
The initial DOJ/EPA complaint against Air Liquide alleged violations of the CAA, including:
- releasing regulated ozone-depleting substances into the air;
- exceeding the annual leak rate of 35 percent for large, industrial, cooling systems using CFC refrigerants;
- adding refrigerant containing CFCs to its refrigeration systems without testing for, locating, and repairing leaks;
- failing to capture the CFC refrigerant from the appliances using certified CFC recovery/recycling equipment;
- failing to keep proper records and provide them to EPA; and
- failing to use an EPA certified technician to maintain, service or repair the industrial process refrigeration equipment.
Affected Air Liquide facilities are located in Fairfield, Alaska.; Anchorage, Alaska.; Tucson, Ariz.; Etiwanda, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Orlando, Fla; Merritt Island, Fla; Savannah, Ga.; Kapolei, Hawaii; Plaquemine, La.; Westlake, La.; Madison, Miss.; East Helena, Mont.; Kinston, N.C.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; McMinnville, Ore.; Spartanburg, S.C.; Cleburne, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Longview, Texas; Vineyard, Utah; and Kent, Wash.
The civil settlement is subject to to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. Questions about ozone depletion or EPA rules concerning CFCs may be directed to the Agency's Stratospheric Ozone Hotline at 800-296-1996.