The second largest carbon black manufacturer in the United States, Cabot Corp., will pay a $975,000 civil penalty and spend an estimated $84 million on state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution at its three facilities in the towns of Franklin and Ville Platte, LA and Pampa, TX, federal officials said.
This agreement is the first to result from a national enforcement initiative aimed at bringing carbon black manufacturers into compliance with the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) New Source Review (NSR) provisions.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is a co-plaintiff in the case and will receive $292,500 of the penalty.
“With today’s commitment to invest in pollution controls, Cabot has raised the industry standard for environmental protection,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These upgrades will have lasting, tangible impacts on improved respiratory health for local communities. We expect others in the industry to take notice and realize their obligation to protect the communities in which they operate.”
“By agreeing to pay an appropriate penalty and install state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution, Cabot Corp is taking a positive step forward to address these alleged violations of the Clean Air Act,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will serve as a model for how the industry can come into compliance with the Clean Air Act by installing controls that prevent harmful pollution and improve air quality for surrounding communities.”
“This is a huge win for the citizens of our district,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley. “These harmful pollutants can cause serious, long-term respiratory harm. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the enforcement of the environmental laws and protection of the community. This settlement promotes a healthier environment and an opportunity to allow the residents of the district to breathe cleaner air.”
At all three facilities, the settlement requires Boston-based Cabot optimize existing controls for particulate matter or soot, operate an “early warning” detection system that will alert facility operators to any particulate matter releases, and comply with a plan to control “fugitive emissions” which result from leaks or unintended releases of gases. To address nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, Cabot must install selective catalytic reduction technology to significantly reduce emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent limits.
At the two larger facilities in Louisiana, Cabot must address sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution by installing wet gas scrubbers to control emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent emissions limits. In addition, the Texas facility must comply with a limit on the amount of sulfur in feedstock which is the lowest for any carbon black plant in the United States.
These measures are expected to reduce NOx emissions by 1,975 tons per year, SO2 emissions by 12,380 tons per year, and significantly improve existing particulate matter controls. Exposure to NOx emissions can cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. SO2 and NOx can convert to fine particulate matter once released in the air. Fine particulates can be breathed in and lodged deep in the lungs, leading to a variety of health problems and even premature death. The harmful health and environmental impacts from these pollutants can occur near the facilities as well as in communities far downwind from the plants.
The settlement also requires Cabot spend $450,000 on energy saving and pollution reduction projects that will benefit the communities surrounding the facilities in Franklin, Ville Platte and Pampa, such as upgrading air handling units at municipal buildings in the three communities to more efficient technology.
Cabot manufactures global specialty chemicals and performance materials, which include rubber additives for tires and brake pads, activated carbon for air purifiers, chemicals used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, and inkjet colorants.