Plastics Producer SABIC Agrees to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution From Leaking Equipment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice have announced that SABIC Innovative Plastics US LLC, and its subsidiary, SABIC Innovative Plastics Mt. Vernon, LLC, have agreed to pay an approximately $1 million civil penalty and improve leak detection and repair practices to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at chemical manufacturing facilities in Mt. Vernon, Ind. and Burkville, Ala. Emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from leaking equipment may cause serious health effects including cancer, reproductive issues and birth defects.

“Communities near large industrial facilities depend on EPA to protect public health and the environment by enforcing our nation’s environmental laws,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement with SABIC will reduce the potential for future violations and protect residents in Indiana and Alabama from emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”

“This compliance program continues our efforts to control fugitive emissions and will require SABIC to upgrade its monitoring and maintenance practices to help prevent future violations,” said Robert G. Dreher, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.

In addition to paying a penalty, SABIC will implement a comprehensive program to reduce emissions of HAPs from leaking equipment such as valves and pumps. The emissions, known as “fugitive” emissions because they are not discharged from a stack but rather leak directly from equipment, are generally controlled through work practices, like monitoring and repairing leaks. The settlement requires SABIC to implement enhanced work practices, including more frequent leak monitoring, better repair practices, and innovative new efforts designed to prevent leaks.

The program also requires SABIC to replace valves with new “low emissions” valves or valve packing material, designed to significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks of HAPs. In response to EPA’s inspection of the Mt. Vernon facility, SABIC engineered HAP emission controls for hundreds of drains and trenches and the settlement further requires SABIC to control similar emissions from an oil/water separator. The estimated cost of these controls is almost $4 million. SABIC will also invest an additional $1.3 million to control HAP emissions from certain process vents as a supplemental environmental project. The compliance program and engineered controls will reduce HAP emissions by up to 136.7 tons per year.

According to the 15-count complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement today in the Southern District of Indiana, SABIC allegedly violated CAA requirements to monitor and repair leaking equipment, demonstrate compliance with regulations applicable to chemical plants, and report known violations to EPA.

The consent decree is subject to a 30 day comment period and final approval by the court.

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