The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday announced a comprehensive Clean Air Act (CAA) agreement with wood products industry giant Boise Cascade Corp. that will require the company to reduce up to 95 percent of the harmful emissions from the company''s eight plywood and particle board plants. The plants are located in Oregon, Washington, Louisiana and Idaho. The improvements to its facilities will cost Boise Cascade over $12 million, according to the company, and it agreed to pay $4.35 million in civil penalties.
In an enforcement action begun in 2000, EPA alleged that Boise Cascade failed to obtain appropriate permits before modifying its facilities and inadequately controlled air emissions from its plywood and particleboard facilities, as required by the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations under the new source review provisions of the federal CAA and state rules. EPA further alleged that the company did not accurately report its emissions of VOCs. Boise Cascade disputes these claims.
This is the fifth case against a major wood products producer to be settled as part of EPA''s wood products initiative, which started in the late 1980s and was the first industry-wide effort to enforce new source review under the CAA.
"This settlement is one of a dozen national settlements in the past several years to enforce the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act across the wood products, petroleum refining, steel mini-mill and coal fired utility industries, and sends the message that we will be tenacious in our enforcement efforts," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the DOJ''s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Boise Cascade''s willingness to settle the case will help improve human health and the environment in the communities near its plants."
A consent decree filed yesterday requires Boise Cascade to install state-of-the-art air pollution control equipment at an estimated cost of $15 million over the next three years at its Medford and Elgin, Ore., operations, and the Florien and Oakdale plants in Louisiana. In addition, the company must select one of three pollution control options to reduce volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs) from its particle board facility in Island City, Ore. The company agreed to spend another $2.9 million in supplemental controls to reduce emissions at the Yakima and Kettle Falls, Wash., plants, and to control certain units at the Medford, Ore., plywood facility. The state of Louisiana joined in the settlement and will receive a $250,000 share in the penalties.
"This is an appropriate resolution of the disputed issues," said George Harad, CEO of Boise Cascade. "The implementation of these additional pollution controls and environmental projects supports Boise Cascade''s and the government''s joint goal of continuously improving air quality."
Perhaps more interesting than the settlement was the process used to reach it. A professional mediator worked closely with representatives of the government agencies and with Boise Cascade to iron out the details of the settlement. It is believed to be the first pre-litigation use of mediation by the United States in a Clean Air Act environmental enforcement action.
"The unique mediation process used by the parties enabled the participants to examine all sides of the issue and develop a plan for accomplishing the critical goal of maintaining air quality," said John Bickerman of Washington, D.C.-based Bickerman Dispute Resolution, who served as mediator. "The citizens of the United States should be pleased that industry and the Unites States were successful at reaching a solution which benefits all."
The settlement is expected to reduce emissions of VOCs and particulate matter by an estimated 2,166 tons per year. VOCs are linked with the formation of ground level ozone, or smog, and VOCs and particulate matter are known to contribute to respiratory illnesses, especially in children and the elderly.
"Our nation''s air quality continues to improve. We continue to pursue violations of our Clean Air Act permitting programs, which are critical to achieving our national air quality goals," said Sylvia Lowrance, acting assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])