Lafarge was granted additional time to complete construction of its new kiln, but the extension came alongside strengthened emissions standards to further reduce pollution at its local cement plant.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, along with federal officials, on Tuesday, July 23, announced an amended settlement with Lafarge North America. The agreement extends the company’s deadline to construct the new kiln for its cement plant in Ravena by 18 months. In exchange for the extension, the company has agreed to reduce pollution emissions beyond what the original agreement’s requirements.
The amended settlement includes annual allowable emissions for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide at or below the original agreement. These pollutants contribute to smog and soot pollution, along with acid rain. Lafarge, in a separate agreement with the state, will limit mercury emissions to levels 25 percent lower than the plant’s current air pollution control permit.
Lafarge also agreed to provide funding of $1.5 million toward projects to further reduce emissions at the plant and in surrounding communities. These projects include replacing its old diesel-locomotive with one equipped with state-of-the-art air pollution controls.
The state said it will be seeking input from residents within 30 miles of the plant on “other appropriate projects,” which could include additional energy-efficiency and pollution-reduction programs at area schools.
“This settlement will improve the air in Ravena and the surrounding area, while helping to ensure jobs stay in the community,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office will work to ensure Lafarge complies fully with this settlement, meets its obligations to modernize the Ravena operations, and continues to advance air quality in the Ravena area.”
Martens said the DEC is committed to preserving the environment while supporting economic development.
“Safeguarding the health of the community surrounding the Ravena plant is our top priority,” Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in a statement. “This agreement will reduce the pollution limits required by the settlement at this facility by providing a significant amount of funding for projects that will improve local air quality.”
Mike Kralik, manager of the Ravena plant, applauded the agreement and said Lafarge is working to transform the plant into an “efficient, competitive, state-of-the-art facility.”
“The 18-month extension proposed by the EPA and DEC will help Lafarge North America’s U.S. business unit maintain continued safe operations at the existing plant and preserve jobs, productivity and the plant’s role in its community,” Kralik said in a statement.
He said advanced efficiency features of the new facility would allow the plant to “compete successfully and meet the economy’s need for high quality cement.”
In 2010, the federal EPA, New York and 11 other states entered into a consent decree with Lafarge requiring the company to limit pollutant emissions from its 13 plants nationwide. At its Ravena plant, the company had to meet the imposed limits by Jan. 1, 2015, by either retrofitting the plant’s existing cement kilns or constructing a new, modern kiln that has advanced pollution controls.
Lafarge approached state and federal officials about an extension because the company claimed the cement industry has recovered slower than expected from the country’s recent recession. This slower recovery led the company to delaying funding of construction of the new kiln in Ravena.
Lafarge will have until July 1, 2016, to compete construction, but the agreement includes a detailed construction schedule and penalties for not meeting milestones.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers and Policy Analyst Jeremy Magliaro of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel, and Assistant Counsel Blaise Constantakes of DEC’s Office of General Counsel.