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Former Long Island Company, Izumi, Pays $1.75 Million for Violating Clean Air Act

Release Date: 01/19/2000
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(#00013) New York, New York -- Izumi Corporations Industries, Inc. will pay a $ 1.75 million penalty for alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced today. Izumi operated a steering wheel and air bag production facility in Yaphank, Long Island until November 1996. In 1994, the company installed production lines to coat automotive parts without installing pollution controls. These units had a potential to emit more than 400 tons per year of ozone or smog-forming hydrocarbons called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The $1.75 million dollar penalty is one of the largest EPA has collected for violations of this type.

"Failure to control VOC emissions, particularly in an area like Long Island, where smog is such a persistent problem, is a significant violation that deserves significant penalties," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "Smog impacts the health of many people on Long Island, bringing on asthma attacks and causing other respiratory problems. The control of VOCs is a critical component of our efforts to protect public health."

Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, where Izumi was located, commented, "This office considers Clean Air Act violations to be serious violations. The size of this settlement should send the message that violators will be pursued vigorously and will be subject to substantial fines and other significant penalties."

The EPA and New York State classified Long Island, as well as the entire New York metropolitan area, as a "severe nonattainment area" for ozone, meaning that the area did not meet the federal health-based standard for ozone. The Agency classifies sources located in severe nonattainment areas as "major" if they emit 25 tons or more of VOCs per year. Izumi's potential to emit more than 400 tons per year of VOCs was considerably above the threshold for major source classification. As a result, the company was required to use pollution controls that would have limited VOC emissions to the lowest level achievable with current technology, known as lowest available emission rate, or LAER.

The Agency also fined Izumi for its failure to obtain VOC offsets, required by the federal Clean Air Act, and failure to comply with the New York State limits for VOC emissions from new surface coating operations. Because it is in a severe nonattainment area, Izumi would have had to purchase 1.3 tons in emission credits from other facilities within the area that have reduced their VOC emissions below required levels for each ton of VOC it expected to emit. The emissions would have been calculated after meeting the LAER requirement. Such emission offset purchases assure reduction of the overall level of VOC emissions.

EPA discovered Izumi's violations just as Izumi was completing a transaction to sell the facility to the company TRW, Inc. TRW, Inc., through previous negotiations with the state and EPA, ultimately brought the facility into compliance and then subsequently relocated the facility to Mexico. At the time of negotiations, Izumi, a subsidiary of a large Japanese company, had virtually no assets and no continued presence in the United States with the exception of an escrow account dating to the time of the TRW, Inc. transaction. The negotiations and settlement were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent Lipari, Assistant Regional Counsel Flair Hope Mills, Gaetano LaVigna of EPA and Jerome MacLaughlin of the U.S. Department of Justice.

There are nine areas across the country that EPA classifies as severe for ozone nonattainment, which include the Metropolitan Areas of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, and Milwaukee as well as Sacramento, CA, Ventura, CO, and the CA Southeast Desert. Los Angeles is the only area EPA classifies as extreme for ozone nonattainment. The Agency classifies areas for ozone nonattainment based on the concentration of atmospheric ozone. High concentrations of ozone are known to cause difficulties in breathing, especially for children, asthmatics and people with impaired lungs. Ozone also contributes to a reduction in crop yield and a depletion of the forests as well as increased tree and plant susceptibility to disease and pests.

A recently released EPA study, "The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990," shows that federal programs to cut pollution, such as the LAER and emission offset requirements that Izumi violated, have resulted in significant benefit to the health of Americans. The report, which was independently reviewed by scientific and economic experts, found that the economic value of the public health and environmental benefits that Americans enjoy from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 exceeds their costs by a margin of four to one. It projects that the Clean Air Act Amendments and their associated programs prevent thousands of premature deaths related to air pollution, and millions of asthma attacks as well as a wide range of additional human health and ecological effects. The report is posted on EPA's web site at .