The Department of Environmental Protection has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a settlement with Lafarge of North America for air quality violations at its cement manufacturing plants in 12 states, including one in Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, in Pennsylvania.
EPA fined the company $5 million for violations stemming from the conversion of low-sulfur coal to a mixture of coal and high-sulfur petroleum coke as part of its manufacturing process. This conversion increased sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions beyond regulatory standards.
In total, the required air quality improvements will reduce nitrogen oxide by more than 9,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide by more than 26,000 tons per year. In addition, LaFarge agreed to install emission control equipment that will reduce both of these harmful pollutants at its facilities.
"This settlement will improve the air quality across the Lehigh Valley and we are pleased to have worked closely with the EPA and the company to provide a solution to these serious violations," said Department of Environmental Protection's Northeast regional director Mike Bedrin.
Pennsylvania was joined in the settlement by Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington.
Each of the states will share one-third of the penalty, approximately $1.7 million, based on emissions from each of the plants, with DEP receiving $55,250. That penalty will be paid to the Clean Air Fund. The other two-thirds of the penalty will go to the federal government.
The consent decree was filed in federal court in Illinois on January 21 and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.