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$98 million settlement with carbon black manufacturer to reduce air pollution in three states

Carbon_blackIn a settlement with the United States and the states of Alabama and Oklahoma, Continental Carbon Co. has agreed to install pollution control technology that will cut emissions of harmful air pollution at manufacturing plants in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice announced Monday.

The settlement

The settlement will resolve claims that Continental violated the Clean Air Act by modifying its facilities in a way that caused the release of excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

The settlement requires Continental to pay a penalty of $650,000, which will be shared with Alabama and Oklahoma, also 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.

“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.

Carbon black

Continental manufactures carbon black, a fine 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 the 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.

Pollution reductions

The EPA expects that the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by about 6,280 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 carry out the requirements.

Health effects

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide have many 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.

The 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 the agency in 2007. The EPA issued notices of violation to Continental for these claims in 2012.

Comment period

The settlement has a 30-day public comment period. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement.

Other carbon black plants

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. With this settlement, six of the 15 facilities will be covered by consent decrees with the EPA. In 2013, the agency announced the first national carbon black settlement with Boston-based Cabot Corporation, the second largest carbon black manufacturer in the United States.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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