The Justice Department and EPA announced a ground-breaking Clean Air Act settlement with Air Liquide America Corp. to replace refrigerant chemicals that destroy the earth''s stratospheric ozone layer with environmentally friendly alternatives.
The government charged Air Liquide with illegally releasing ozone-depleting gases from industrial process refrigeration systems at 22 facilities located in 18 states.
The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, requires Air Liquide to convert all its industrial refrigeration systems now using regulated ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to systems using alternative, environmentally friendly refrigerants.
The company also will fund an "environmental justice" supplemental project that will benefit a lower income, predominately minority community in Louisiana, and pay a $4.5 million civil penalty.
"Air Liquide''s actions are an excellent example of cooperation between a company and the government to find a solution that averts further damage to the ozone-layer and involves tangible measures that preserve an undisturbed area of land from future development," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
The ozone layer is located in the upper atmosphere 30 miles above the earth''s surface. This layer of gas screens individuals from the sun''s powerful and harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer.
Air Liquide America Corporation is a subsidiary of L''Air Liquide, SA, Paris France, the world''s largest manufacturer of industrial and medical gases, such as super-cooled liquid oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases.
The company''s cryogenic manufacturing facilities use large industrial refrigeration systems containing ozone-depleting substances regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Under the settlement Air Liquide will replace or completely retrofit 46 industrial refrigeration systems to coolant methods that are environmentally benign, and will retire seven more systems which use ozone-depleting refrigerants.
The company also will dedicate an undeveloped parcel of land having ecological value as open or "green" space in the industrialized area of Calcasieu Parish, La. The project is valued at $422,000.
Additionally, the company will donate a two-acre parcel of land it owns in Westlake, La., to the Carlyss Fire Department for a new two-bay fire and emergency response station. This particular project is valued at about $78,000.
Air Liquide could have continued to use regulated, ozone-depleting refrigerants in these systems for an indefinite period of time, provided the company complied with CAA requirements
Instead, the company chose to voluntarily revamp its refrigeration processes. "We commend Air Liquide for its good faith in seeking to offset the past excessive leaks of ozone-depleting refrigerants by making these efforts to reduce the use of ozone-depleting substances all together," said John
Cruden, acting assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
The United States and more than 100 countries have agreed to end production of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.
The CAA contains many measures to protect the ozone layer, including a ban on venting into the air CFC refrigerant from air conditioners and small appliances.
Additionally, the United States has committed to reducing emissions of ozone-depleting substances to their "lowest achievable level" at manufacturing and industrial facilities.
by Virginia Sutcliffe