A fertilizer company with major operations here in the San Joaquin Valley was fined over $1 million for violating federal clean air regulations, according to an announcement today by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The J.R. Simplot Company was charged with modifying its sulfuric acid plants and increasing emissions of sulfur dioxide without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing air pollution control equipment. Those actions violated the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting requirements, as well as the State Implentation Plans (SIPs) of California, Idaho, and Wyoming.
The company operates 2 sulfuric acid plants in each of the latter two states, in addition to one in Lathrop, California. The plants use elemental sulfur to produce phosphoric acid which is then combined with ammonia to produce the common fertilizer diammonium phosphate.
Additionally, the company allegedly violated PSD requirements for sulfuric acid mist and PM2.5 at one of its plants in Pocatello, Idaho, as well as violating CAA New Source Performance Standards and corresponding regulations applicable to such plants.
Under the terms of a settlement agreement with EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice, the J.R. Simplot Company will pay a civil penalty of $899,000, fund an environmental mitigation project worth $200,000 to reduce particulate matter in the San JoaquinValley, and spend over $40 million on pollution controls on all five plants, reducing their emissions by more than 50 percent (by approximately 2,540 tons per year).
The Valley mitigation project will help residents install cleaner-burning, more energy-efficient appliances to replace inefficient and higher polluting wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. It will result in significant reductions of PM2.5 emissions and Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is a precursor to PM2.5.
“This action will lead to a 265-ton per year cut of harmful sulfur dioxide emissions from the Lathrop plant – that’s a 56% reduction,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect San Joaquin Valley residents from air pollution that can worsen asthma and other respiratory ailments.”
“Under this proposed settlement, Simplot must upgrade its pollution controls and cut harmful air pollution in half at its acid plants, bringing lasting benefits to communities in three states,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act, which protects public health and air quality for Americans each and every day.”
The state of Idaho on behalf of its Department of Environmental Quality and the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District are parties to the proposed settlement, which will result in the best-controlled, system-wide emission rates achieved in any sulfuric acid plant settlement to-date.
The consent decree formalizing the settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it can be finally approved by the U.S. District Court in Idaho.