Dow Chemical Company to Pay $3 Million To Settle Clean Air Act Allegations

The Dow Chemical Company and two of its subsidiaries, Performance Materials NA, Inc, and Union Carbide Corporation, reached a settlement on Tuesday with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce air pollution from petrochemical and chemical flares on Tuesday. The company agreed to pay $3 million, $2.3 million will be paid to the United States and the rest will be paid to Louisiana. 

According to the EPA’s press release, the settlement applies to 26 Dow flares at four facilities, two in Texas and two in Louisiana which contain two types of chemical plants: Olefins plants which produce ethylene, which used in plastic products, and propylene, which is used in carpet and car parts; and Polymer Plants which produce various grades of polyethylene, “the most common plastic in the world.”

Dow and its subsidiaries were accused in the Eastern District of Louisiana complaint, which was filed on Tuesday prior to the Consent Decree, of violating the Clean Air Act (CAA) and releasing excess pollutants into the air, breaching the Texas and Louisiana State Implementation Plans, the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, and its own permits. 

In addition to the civil penalty, the consent decree requires the company to implement “waste gas minimization plans,” install flare gas recovery systems to recycle the gasses and use them for fuel, install flare monitoring equipment. The EPA reported that the steps in the decree will reduce volatile organic compounds by 5,589 tons per year, hazardous air pollutants by 480 tons per year, and Nitrogen Oxides by 127 tons per year. 

“This settlement will improve air quality in Texas and Louisiana by eliminating thousands of tons of harmful air pollution each year,” said Jonathan D. Brightbill, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a Department of Justice press release. “The agreement, which requires Dow to reduce emissions from its facilities in Texas and Louisiana, demonstrates the Justice Department’s and EPA’s continuing efforts, together with our state partners, to reduce harmful air pollution from unnecessary and improper flaring in order to protect the American public by bringing sources of air pollution into compliance with the Clean Air Act.”

The Department of Justice explained that the pollutants caused by the facility could cause harm to public health by contributing to smog and ground-level ozone causing lung irritation and increasing susceptibility to some illnesses. 

This consent decree is still subject to the court’s approval and a 30-day public comment period.