NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, October 5, 2009 (ENS) – Mosaic Fertilizer will spend $30 million on air pollution controls to eliminate harmful emissions from sulfuric acid production plants in Uncle Sam, Louisiana and Mulberry, Florida, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.
The company will also pay a civil penalty of $2.4 million to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations.
Based in Plymouth, Minnesota, Mosaic Fertilizer is a subsidiary of the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest producers of concentrated phosphate and potash. Mosaic Fertilizer was formed in 2004 through the merger of Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global.
The spending comes at a bad time for the publicly traded company, which today posted a 91 percent drop in its fiscal first-quarter profit due to a drop in demand for its products.
Under a settlement filed in federal court in New Orleans, Mosaic will install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment, upgrade existing controls and make multiple modifications to its operating procedures to meet new, lower sulfur dioxide emission limits at its Uncle Sam facility.
In addition, Mosaic agreed that it will permanently cease sulfuric acid production at its Mulberry sulfuric acid plant in Bartow, Florida, east of the Tampa Bay area.
The company also agreed not to use the emission reduction credits associated with that shut down to enable increased emissions at other facilities.
These measures are expected to eliminate more than 7,600 tons of sulfur dioxide annually from the two plants.
“This settlement represents another important step by EPA as we address non-compliance with the Clean Air Act by sulfuric acid manufacturers,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“The more than 7,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide reductions secured by this settlement will produce significant and measurable public health benefits for downwind communities,” Giles said.
“We are pleased to reach this agreement which will bring Mosaic into compliance with the law and have a meaningful effect on the environment and community,” said John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The government’s complaint, filed concurrently with the consent decree, alleged that Mosaic made modifications to the Uncle Sam facility that increased emissions of sulfur dioxide without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment.
The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant. The government discovered the modifications through a request for information to the company.
The state of Louisiana joined the federal government in the complaint and settlement, and will receive $600,000 of the penalty.
Mosaic has two facilities located about 50 miles northwest of New Orleans in St. James Parish.
At its Uncle Sam plant, the company produces sulfuric acid and combines it with phosphate rock to produce up to 870,000 metric tonnes of phosphoric acid annually.
The acid is used to produce up to 1.9 million tonnes of the fertilizers diammonium phosphate and monoammonium phosphate each year at the company’s nearby Faustina plant.
Sulfuric acid production results in emissions of sulfur dioxide, exposure to which can cause respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. Sulfur dioxide also contributes to acid rain, haze, and impairs visibility in national parks. Emissions from sulfuric acid plants can be carried long distances downwind, causing air quality problems in nearby states.
This settlement is the sixth nationwide compliance agreement in a Clean Air Act initiative to improve compliance among acid production manufacturers. Earlier this year, settlements were announced with Chemtrade Logistics, Chemtrade Refinery Services, and Marsulex.
Under all of the acid plant settlements to date, the companies are expected to spend a combined total of about $254 million on pollution control technology, remit almost $12 million in penalties, and eliminate approximately 44,340 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions per year.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.