The pollution controls are expected to reduce harmful emissions from company production plants in Texas, Louisiana, California and Indiana by 19,000 tons per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.
Rhodia's plants produce sulfuric acid by burning compounds containing sulfur, creating sulfur dioxide. The sulfur dioxide is then converted to sulfur trioxide, which combines with water to form sulfuric acid.
Air pollution is created when unconverted sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid mist are released to the atmosphere.
The government's complaint alleges that Rhodia modified its plants, increasing emissions of sulfur dioxide, without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment.
Today's settlement will ensure that the proper pollution equipment will be installed to reduce future emission levels.
The company will meet new, lower emission limits for sulfur dioxide at eight sulfuric acid production units - two in Houston, Texas, and one in Baytown, Texas; two in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; one each in Martinez, California, and Dominguez, California; and one in Hammond, Indiana.
To meet these limits, the company will install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment at several plants and change operating procedures at several others.
The states of Indiana and Louisiana, California's Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the city of Hammond, Indiana, joined the federal government in today's agreement and will receive shares of the civil penalty.
Rhodia is the first sulfuric acid manufacturer in the nation to agree to a company-wide 'global' compliance agreement. As a result of these actions, actual emissions at some of the Rhodia plants will decrease by more than 90 percent.
The Justice Department and the EPA expect to reach similar agreements with other sulfuric acid manufacturers. The EPA is focusing on improving compliance among industries that have the potential to cause major amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing, glass manufacturing, and acid production industries.
'Today's settlement will reduce harmful air pollutants by 19,000 tons per year,' said Grant Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for the office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. 'Sulfur dioxide can impair breathing, aggravate respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, and cause acid rain. This will improve air quality for millions of people around the nation.'
The consent decree, lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The company is required to pay the penalty within 30 days after the court approves the settlement and to begin meeting stricter emission limits at some of the plants by July 1, 2007.