In a settlement with the United States and the states of Alabama and Oklahoma, Continental Carbon Company has agreed to install pollution control technology that will significantly cut emissions of harmful air pollutants at manufacturing facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced. The settlement will resolve claims that Houston-based Continental violated the Clean Air Act by modifying their facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx).
The settlement requires Continental to pay a civil penalty of $650,000, which will be shared with Alabama and Oklahoma, co-plaintiffs in the case. Continental must also spend $550,000 on environmental projects to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution on the environment and to benefit local communities, including at least $25,000 on energy efficiency projects in the communities near each of the three facilities.
“This settlement brings another major carbon black company into compliance with a law that protects clean air for American communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By investigating all 15 carbon black manufacturing plants in the U.S., EPA is committed to improving public health and leveling the playing field for companies that follow the law. By installing the latest pollution control technology and funding environmental projects, Continental is taking steps to reduce emissions of air pollutants that can lead to serious health problems.”
“Today’s agreement is good news for residents living near Continental facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas, who will benefit from cleaner air for years to come because of this action,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement also reflects our continuing efforts to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act to protect public health and the environment. The settlement requires Continental to control large sources of air pollution with advanced technology and requires projects that will have a direct and positive impact on Continental’s neighbors.”
Continental manufactures carbon black, a fine carbonaceous powder used in tires, plastics, rubber, inkjet toner and cosmetics, at facilities in Phenix City, Ala., Ponca City, Okla., and Sunray, Texas. Because the oil used to make carbon black is high in sulfur, its production creates large amounts of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. This settlement supports EPA’s and DOJ’s national efforts to advance environmental justice by working to protect communities such as Phenix City and Ponca City that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.
EPA expects that the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by approximately 6,278 tons per year of sulfur dioxide and 1,590 tons per year of nitrogen oxide. Continental estimates that it will spend about $98 million to implement the required measures. The pollution reductions will be achieved through the installation, upgrade and operation of state-of-the-art pollution control devices designed to reduce emissions and protect public health.
SO2 and NOx have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. These pollutants are converted in the air to particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death.
EPA concluded that the modifications made at Continental’s plants violated the Clean Air Act based on information the company submitted in response to an information request from EPA in 2007. EPA issued notices of violation to Continental for these claims in 2012.
The settlement was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District Court of Oklahoma and is subject to a 30 day public comment period. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement.
This settlement is part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative to control harmful emissions from large sources of pollution. Through the initiative, EPA investigated all 15 of the carbon black plants in the U.S. for violations of the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements. With this settlement, six of the 15 facilities will be covered by consent decrees with EPA. In 2013, EPA announced the first national carbon black settlement with Boston-based Cabot Corporation, the second largest carbon black manufacturer in the United States.
More on the settlement here.