By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register
A Dutch chemical company has reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to invest $50 million in six U.S. manufacturing plants, including one in eastern Iowa, to resolve alleged state and federal clean air violations.
The EPA said three LyondellBasell Industries’ U.S. subsidiaries have agreed to upgrade operations at six petrochemical manufacturing facilities. One is in Clinton and the others are in Texas.
Lyondell also will pay a $3.4 million civil penalty.
The settlement, which the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced this week, will eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution from industrial flares used to burn off waste gases at the facilities, the agencies say.
According to a complaint filed against LyondellBasell, its companies failed to properly operate and monitor their industrial flares, resulting in excess emissions of air pollution. Well-operated flares should burn nearly all harmful waste gases, leaving only water and carbon dioxide.
The agreement requires Lyondell to minimize the amount of waste gas it burns and increase the proportion of the gases the flares destroy, the EPA said.
“This settlement will require LyondellBasell to install pollution control and emissions monitoring equipment at six facilities in Texas and Iowa, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful gases by thousands of tons per year,” Larry Starfield, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of enforcement and compliance assurance, said in a statement.
“Those controls, plus a requirement for fence line monitoring of benzene emissions, will result in significant benefits for the local communities in Texas and Iowa,” Starfield said.
The settlement is expected to reduce emissions of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds by almost 2,700 tons per year and emissions of toxic air pollutants, including benzene, by nearly 400 tons per year, the EPA said.
The pollutants can cause significant harm to public health, the EPA said. For example, chronic exposure to benzene, which the federal government has classified as a carcinogen, can cause leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women, among other health consequences, the EPA said.
The consent decree, lodged in the Southern District Court of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8457.