Cabot investing in emissions reduction technology

Cabot Corporation, the second largest carbon black manufacturer in the United States, has agreed to pay a US$975,000 civil penalty and spend an estimated $84 million on state of the art technology to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOX), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM) from its carbon black plants in Franklin and Ville Platte, Louisiana, and Pampa, Texas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice, these measures will resolve alleged violations of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at these three facilities.

The agreement with Cabot Corporation is the first to result from a US enforcement initiative aimed at bringing carbon black manufacturers into compliance with the CAA’s NSR provisions. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is a co-plaintiff in the case against Cabot and will receive $292,500 of the penalty. “With today’s commitment to invest in pollution controls, Cabot has raised the industry standard for environmental protection,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, on 19 November. “These upgrades will have lasting, tangible impacts on improved respiratory health for local communities. We expect others in the industry to take notice and realise their obligation to protect the communities in which they operate.”

“By agreeing to pay an appropriate penalty and install state of the art technology to control harmful air pollution, Cabot Corp is taking a positive step forward to address these alleged violations of the Clean Air Act,” added Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will serve as a model for how the industry can come into compliance with the Clean Air Act by installing controls that prevent harmful pollution and improve air quality for surrounding communities.”

At all three facilities, the settlement requires Cabot to optimise existing controls for particulate matter or soot, operate an “early warning” detection system that will alert facility operators to any particulate matter releases, and comply with a plan to control “fugitive emissions” which result from leaks or unintended releases of gases. To address nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, Cabot must install selective catalytic reduction technology to significantly reduce emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent limits. At the two larger facilities in Louisiana, Cabot must address sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution by installing wet gas scrubbers to control emissions, install continuous monitoring, and comply with stringent emissions limits. In addition, the Texas facility is required to comply with a limit on the amount of sulphur in feedstock which is the lowest for any carbon black plant in the United States.

These measures are expected to reduce NOx emissions by approximately 1,975 tons per year, SO2 emissions by approximately 12,380 tons per year, and significantly improve existing particulate matter controls. Exposure to NOx emissions can cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. SO2 and NOx can be converted to fine particulate matter once released in the air. Fine particulates can be breathed in and lodged deep in the lungs, leading to a variety of health problems and even premature death. The harmful health and environmental impacts from these pollutants can occur near the facilities as well as in communities far downwind from the plants.

“Cabot has a long history of leadership in the carbon black industry. Consistent with this, we have been working proactively with the EPA to implement advanced emissions reduction technologies,” said Patrick Prevost, Cabot president and chief executive officer. “Building on our strategic commitment to sustainability, we have come to an agreement with the EPA on new air emission limits. This agreement will remove uncertainty and enable a more consistent approach to our manufacturing strategy. As the first party in our industry sector to come to an agreement with the EPA, we also believe this will set the standard for the entire US carbon black industry.”

“This investment in advanced emission control technologies demonstrates our commitment to remaining a reliable, long-term partner for our US customers,” commented Dave Miller, president of Cabot’s Reinforcement Materials segment. “Significant investment in new tyre production capacity in the US is taking place over the next several years. With this settlement in place, we can now confidently move forward in planning to support this growth.”

In the complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA, the US government alleged that between 2003 and 2009, Cabot made major modifications at its carbon black facilities without obtaining pre-construction permits and without installing and operating required pollution technology. The complaint further alleges that these actions resulted in increased emissions of NOx and SO2, violating CAA requirements stating that companies must obtain the necessary permits prior to making modifications at a facility and must install and operate required pollution control equipment if those modifications will result in increases of certain pollutants.

The action also requires Cabot to spend $450,000 on energy saving and pollution reduction projects that will benefit the communities surrounding the facilities in Franklin, Ville Platte and Pampa, such as upgrading air handling units at municipal buildings in the three communities to more efficient technology.


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