Shell Chemical LP has agreed to install $10 million in pollution monitoring and control equipment at its Norco chemical facility to settle allegations that four flares used to burn off emissions were operating in violation of federal law, according to a settlement agreement filed in federal court on Monday (Feb. 12) by the company and the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
As part of the settlement, Shell will pay civil penalties of $350,000, including $87,500 that will go to the state environmental agency, to settle claims that the company illegally allowed hazardous air emissions to occur dating back to January 1997. The complaint against the Norco facility, also released Monday, sought federal civil penalties of up to $302 million and state penalties of up to $251 million.
As part of the agreement, the Norco facility will reduce air emissions of volatile organic compounds by 159 tons per year, and reduce other, more harmful emissions that include cancer-causing benzene, by 18 tons per year. The company also will install a flare gas recovery system that will use waste gas as fuel, rather than having it burned in the flares.
“This settlement will improve air quality for citizens of Louisiana by reducing emissions of harmful air pollution,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, in a news release announcing the settlement. “Today’s agreement demonstrates EPA’s dedication to working with states to pursue violations of laws that are critical to protecting public health and bring companies into compliance.”
“We are proud to partner with the State of Louisiana on this important Clean Air Act settlement, which will benefit the citizens of Louisiana,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in the news release. “This agreement is the latest in EPA’s and the Justice Department’s continuing efforts to work with our state partners to protect the American public from harmful air pollution.”
“We are committed to working hand-in-hand with our federal partners to reduce air pollution in Louisiana,” said LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown in the news release. “Actions like this one not only serve to clean up the air our citizens breathe, they send a message that we will not tolerate violations of federal or state laws.”
The consent decree, filed in federal court in New Orleans, is subject to a 30-day federal public comment period, a 45-day state public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the original federal complaint against the Norco facility and the consent decree are available at a Justice Department web site.
More information on the settlement is available at an EPA web site.