Oklahoma City-based chemical manufacturer LSB Industries Inc. and four of its subsidiaries will pay $725,000 in penalties as part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department to resolve alleged federal Clean Air Act violations and state law violations at nitric acid plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
The companies also have agreed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides at the plants by meeting emission limits that are among the lowest in the industry at plants in Alabama.
The settlement includes then nitric acid manufacturing plants, owned by LSB and its subsidiaries, including three plants is Pryor that operate under the name El Dorado Nitrogen Co.
LSB is the largest merchant manufacturer of concentrated nitric acid in North America. The EPA estimates that the LSB settlement will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 800 tons per year.
LSB has been in talks with the EPA to reach the voluntary settlement since 2009, said John Carver, vice president of safety and environmental compliance at LSB. The settlement is one of several the EPA has reached with producers in the nitric acid industry as part of an industry wide initiative, Carver said.
The companies estimate it will cost between $6.3 and $11.7 million to implement the emissions reducing measures over a period of several years as required by the settlement.
“It will cost several million dollars before its all over with, but these measures are being phased in over the next four years at all of our nitric acid facilities,” Carver said. “When it’s done, we will meet the same [nitrogen oxide] limits EPA requires if you were starting a new nitric acid plant — we’re basically bringing all of the older plants up to speed.”
LSB and its four nitric acid producing subsidiaries also will pay a total penalty of $725,000 to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Oklahoma state law.
In addition to paying the penalty, the companies must continue to monitor emissions and make any necessary operational improvements such as installing new pollution controls or upgrading current controls to meet the newer federal standards for the limitations on nitrogen oxide.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will receive $206,250 of the total penalties as part of the settlement.
In a federal complaint filed with the settlement this week, the EPA alleges LSB and its subsidiaries constructed or made modifications to some of their plants that resulted in increased emissions of nitrogen dioxide without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing pollution controls.
“This case is about cleaner air for people living in communities near manufacturing plants,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement. “LSB Industries has committed to dramatic cuts in air pollution and ensuring they are in compliance with the law. We expect others in the industry to recognize the imperative to adopt reforms and reduce pollution in communities where they operate.”
The companies also have agreed to spend $150,000 to clean up and reforest 10 acres of land with acidified soils near El Dorado, Ark., as part of the settlement.
Nitrogen oxide emissions, such as those from nitric acid plants, can contribute to soil acidification, according to the EPA.