DALLAS—Firestone Polymers L.L.C., part of the Bridgestone Group, will pay $3.35 million in civil penalties after agreeing to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations and several other federal and state environmental laws at the company's Sulphur, La.-based manufacturing facility, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
"The settlement requires several actions from Firestone, including meeting emissions limits, operating and maintenance requirements, equipment controls, limiting hazardous air pollutants from facility dryers, conducting inspections of heat exchangers, installing controls and monitors on covered flares and installing flaring instrumentation and monitoring systems," the state and federal entities said in a Sept. 30 press release. "After being notified of the violations but prior to the consent decree being lodged, Firestone took other compliance measures, including installing and operating a regenerative thermal oxidizer system to receive waste gases from dryers, reducing n-hexane solvent concentrations and inspecting and testing heat exchangers."
DOJ, on behalf of EPA and co-plaintiff LDEQ, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against the synthetic rubber producer.
According to the complaint, the government entities alleged "that the facility emitted excess amounts of pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and hazardous air pollutants including 1,3-butadiene, n-hexane, styrene, formaldehyde, methanol and others and failed to comply with requirements related to equipment such as dryers, cooling towers and flares; leak detection and repair; mechanical integrity; and monitoring and reporting."
In addition, "the complaint also asserts violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act; the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act; the Pollution Prevention Act; and Louisiana state air pollution control requirements."
As part of the consent decree, Firestone will pay a civil penalty of $2,098,678.50 to the U.S. and $1,251,321.50 to LDEQ for a total of $3,350,000. Firestone will also complete a Beneficial Environmental Project in Louisiana by funding ambient air monitoring system upgrades in several locations in Southwest Louisiana.
Several state and federal officials provided their input on the settlement, highlighting the importance of clean air for citizens' health, manufacturers' obligations and accountability and the precedence of the decree.
"This settlement will ensure cleaner air for the citizens of Louisiana and the communities near Firestone's plant," said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the DOJ's Environmental and Natural Resources. "It also enforces the company's obligation to inform local communities of potential chemical hazards to aid state and local efforts to control accidental releases."
Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook said Firestone Polymers and similar businesses "have a sacred obligation to protect Louisiana's environment and to use our natural resources wisely. This settlement sends a clear message that those who don't honor this obligation will be held accountable."
"The Clean Air Act is vital to protecting people's health, and the Sulphur Firestone facility violated these protections as Louisiana's highest emitter of three types of hazardous air pollutants," said Acting Regional Administrator David Gray of the EPA. "EPA's legal and enforcement team, working with DOJ and LDEQ, held the company accountable for reducing emissions, and won additional benefits for environmental justice communities in Southwest Louisiana with improved air monitoring systems. I congratulate our team for their hard work on behalf of the people of Louisiana."
"The violations detailed in the complaint represent Firestone's disregard for the Clean Air Act, which is an underlying authority for environmental regulation in the United States," said Secretary Chuck Carr Brown of LDEQ. "LDEQ and our federal partner, EPA, will vigorously pursue any violators of the CAA. These penalties and the beneficial environmental project under the consent decree are the result of our efforts.
"The beneficial environmental project's funds will be used to support additional ambient air monitoring in the Westlake and southwest Louisiana areas," he added, "which will assist LDEQ's efforts to improve air quality for these communities."