Willamette industries, an Oregon-based wood products company will pay the largest fine under the terms of a Clean Air Settlement -- $11.2 million.
The agreement with the company, announced jointly by Attorney General Janet Reno and EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, is part of a continuing series of Clean Air Act enforcement initiatives by the Clinton-Gore Administration.
"Clean Air is one of our most precious possessions, and we cannot take it for granted," Reno told her weekly news conference. "Dirty air is just plain unhealthy, it''s uncomfortable, especially for our elderly, our children and others who are most vulnerable among us."
In addition to the $11.2 million fine, Willamette must also install $74 million worth of pollution control equipment at its factories across the United States.
The agreement covers 13 factories in Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Willamette officials said that the company has been cooperating with federal agency representatives for the past two years to resolve certain historic air permit questions.
"As part of the settlement agreement we will install air emission controls that are well beyond what is required and are the best available today," said Duane McDougall, Willamette''s chief executive officer. "Our goal has always been to minimize our impact on the environment and this agreement is consistent with that goal."
Despite the company''s willingness to agree to a settlement, Reno noted Willamette still broke the law by polluting the air and endangering public health.
"The Clean Air Act required Willamette to install pollution control equipment each time it expanded its factories, which produce plywood and other building products," said Reno. "But we believe that Williamette did not follow the law and as a result, thousands of tons of pollution were illegally released into the air."
The settlement is the third of its kind and the largest penalty ever assessed for factory emissions of air pollution.
Browner told reporters EPA officials estimate "cleaning up the emissions from these plants will keep an average of 27,000 tons of pollution out of the air. That is equivalent to taking 287,000 cars off the road; 287,000 cars is approximately the number of cars in the city the size of Portland."
by Virginia Sutcliffe