Five subsidiaries of Westlake Chemical Corporation – Westlake Chemical OpCo LP, Westlake Petrochemicals LLC, Westlake Polymers LLC, Westlake Styrene LLC and Westlake Vinyls Inc. – have agreed to perform upgrades and enforce compliance measures estimated at $110 million dollars to resolve allegations that they violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws at two of their petrochemical manufacturing facilities located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and one facility in Calvert City, Kentucky. The Westlake companies will also pay a civil penalty of $1 million. The settlement will eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution from flares.
According to the complaint, also filed today by the United States, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Louisiana, the companies failed to properly operate and monitor their industrial flares, resulting in excessive air pollution emissions harmful in all three installations. The company routinely “overheated” flares and failed to meet other key operating constraints to ensure that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) contained in gases routed to the torches are efficiently burned.
“This settlement demonstrates that the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency are committed to addressing excessive and harmful air pollution from improperly operated petrochemical flares,” said Deputy Attorney General Todd Kim of the Division. of the environment and natural resources of the Ministry of Justice. “The significant reductions in the settlement of hazardous and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases will serve to reduce the exposure of vulnerable neighboring communities with environmental justice issues.”
“This settlement will require Westlake businesses to install pollution control and emissions monitoring equipment at all three facilities, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful gases by thousands of tons per year” , said Larry Starfield, acting deputy administrator of the EPA office. and compliance assurance. “These controls, along with a requirement to monitor benzene emissions on fences and take corrective action when benzene readings are high, will result in significant benefits for local communities in Kentucky and Louisiana.”
The settlement requires all three facilities to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce flaring and the resulting harmful air pollution from eight flares at the three facilities. When fully implemented, pollution controls are expected to reduce emissions of ozone-forming VOCs by 2,258 tonnes per year and toxic air pollutants, including benzene, by 65 tonnes per year. The regulations are also expected to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and ethane, by more than 50,733 tonnes per year.
This regulation also contains innovative injunctive measures that continue this administration’s efforts to use law enforcement to reduce the impacts of harmful pollutants on overburdened communities and to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. tight. The significant reductions in VOC and PAH emissions achieved at facilities serve to reduce community exposure to some of the same air pollutants to which they are disproportionately exposed. The combustion efficiency improvement requirements, flare gas recovery system, flare reduction requirements and flare limits included in the regulations will reduce the carbon footprint of all three facilities.
Westlake companies will conduct air quality monitoring designed to detect the presence of benzene at fences at all three facilities. Monitoring results should be published on a publicly accessible website, providing nearby communities with more information about their air quality. Monitoring requirements also include triggers for root cause analysis and corrective action if emissions from the fence exceed certain thresholds. Flaring compliance is an ongoing priority for the EPA as part of its National Compliance Initiative for Creating Clean Air for Communities.
The pollutants covered by the regulations can cause significant harm to public health. VOCs are a key element in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases like asthma and can increase susceptibility to respiratory diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic exposure to benzene, which the EPA classifies as a carcinogen, can cause many health effects, including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women. Flares are also often significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Flares are devices used to burn waste gases that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere during certain industrial operations. Well-operated flares should have a high “combustion efficiency,” meaning they burn nearly all of the harmful constituents of the waste gas, like VOCs and PAHs, and turn them into water and carbon dioxide. The agreement – the eighth of its kind since 2013 – is designed to improve the flaring practices of Westlake businesses. First, it forces the company to minimize the amount of waste gas sent to flares, which reduces the amount of flaring. Second, the company must improve the combustion efficiency of its flares when flaring is required. Westlake companies will take several steps to minimize the waste gases sent to their flares at each facility. All three facilities will operate a flare gas recovery system that recovers and “recycles” the gases instead of sending them to combustion in a flare. The flare gas recovery system will allow Westlake to reuse these gases as fuel in its facilities or as a product for sale. For the flaring that is to take place, the agreement requires Westlake companies to install and operate instruments and monitoring systems to ensure that gases sent to its flares are effectively flared.
The consent decree, filed with the Western Louisiana District Court, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.