EPA: Clean Up Air Pollution from New Orleans-Area Plant

CHALMETTE, La. (AP) — Federal regulators have announced plans to make Louisiana and a suburban New Orleans fuel plant clean up emissions that have violated air quality standards since at least 2013.

The Environmental Protection Agency says a plant owned by Rain CII Carbon LLC of Stamford, Connecticut, spews sulphur dioxide into the air of St. Bernard Parish, The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported.

The plant in Chalmette said in March 2013 that it was responsible for most of that chemical in the parish’s air, the newspaper noted.

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The plant and Louisiana were given a cleanup deadline of October 2018, and the EPA says that hasn’t been met. People have until Jan. 6 to comment on the proposal published earlier this month.

Rain Carbon Inc. did not respond to requests for comment, the newspaper reported.

The EPA proposal calls for giving the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality a year to submit a cleanup plan.

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The agency cited the parish in 2013 for failing to meet sulfur dioxide standards — a complaint based on data from 2009 through 2011, according to the proposal in the Federal Register.

Past citations by the state agency have included at least $75,000 in fines and $7,200 in enforcement costs to settle almost 150 violations of state regulations between 2006 and 2013, the newspaper reported.

Rain turns an oil refinery byproduct into calcined coke, a rock-like fuel used to make aluminum. Coke production releases large amounts of sulfur dioxide, a colorless gas that can irritate noses and throats, impair breathing and cause lung illnesses. People with asthma, particularly children, are highly sensitive to sulfur dioxide.

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State officials say Rain has significantly reduced emissions. But the EPA said combined sulfur dioxide emissions from Rain and other plants in St. Bernard still exceed the federal standard for sulfur dioxide. That allows no more than 75 parts per billion of the chemical during a one-hour period, with that average maintained for three years.

As part of a state plan required under federal law, the Department of Environmental Quality in 2017 and 2018 ordered Rain to change its manufacturing processes to keep sulfur dioxide levels in check.

However, Rain said conventional meters melted, making it difficult to find a way to monitor the heat and flow of gases and other materials.

In 2019, when Donald Trump was president, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., joined the state agency in convincing EPA to delay the plan.

Now, under Democratic President Joe Biden, the agency is acting.

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