Lumber Company Pays $13 Million in One of Largest Air Pollution Settlement Cases in California History

In one of the California Air Resources Board's (ARB) largest-ever penalty cases, Sierra Pacific Industries, a lumber company headquartered in Redding, Calif., recently paid $13 million to settle allegations of air quality violations at four of the company's Sierra foothills sites.

ARB, in cooperation with the California attorney general and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, jointly investigated the alleged violations against Sierra Pacific, and then filed a civil complaint in 2004. The complaint alleged failure to comply with air pollution control regulations at some Sierra Pacific sawmills and wood-fired boilers located in Lincoln, Quincy, Loyalton and Susanville (now closed).

"The cumulative effects of numerous small, scattered air violations can compromise air quality just as much as larger, more visible violations," ARB Chairman Mary Nichols said on Aug. 6. "This settlement should send a clear message to companies throughout the state that the environmental cops are on the beat."

Among the alleged air quality violations in the civil complaint were:

  • Falsification of emission reports as a result of operator tampering with monitoring equipment.
  • Failure to report emissions above allowable limits.
  • Exceeding numerous permit emission limits over several years.
  • Failure to operate and maintain air pollution control equipment.
  • Discharging soot from the Lincoln facility that caused nuisances to nearby residences.

Sierra Pacific has since taken steps to address the problems, including a $17 million investment in its Lincoln cogeneration plant to replace a turbine and boiler.

The settlement includes $8.5 million for public agency costs, fees and penalties, and $4.5 million for programs to benefit air quality, including facility improvements not otherwise required and extensive compliance auditing, monitoring and oversight. As part of the settlement, Sierra Pacific will ensure that all alleged conditions will not occur in the future.

For more information, contact ARB at http://www.arb.ca.gov.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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