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Weyerhaeuser Co. Settles Air Pollution Violations at Pulp and Paper Plant - Company to Pay $900,000 Penalty, Upgrade Pollution Controls

Release Date: 7/22/2004
Contact Information: DOJ: Blaine Rethmeier, 202-616-0903 and EPA: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

DOJ: Blaine Rethmeier, 202-616-0903 and EPA: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney
Western District of Pittsburgh

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region III – 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103

PHILADELPHIA – Weyerhaeuser Company has settled alleged violations of federal and state air pollution control laws at its pulp and paper plant in northwestern Pennsylvania, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced today.

In legal papers filed in federal court in Pittsburgh, the Washington state-based Weyerheauser Company has agreed to pay a $900,000 penalty and improve air pollution controls at its kraft pulp and paper mill in Johnsonburg, Elk County, Pa. This enforcement action began in April 1999, when EPA issued a Clean Air Act violation notice to former plant owner Willamette Industries, Inc. Weyerhaeuser acquired this plant in June 2002 after the company’s merger with Williamette.

“The Department of Justice is focused on enforcing our nation's environmental laws and defending the environment against harmful pollution,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement shows the resolve of DOJ and EPA to ensure that companies, who violate the law, pay an appropriate penalty for violations and come into compliance.”

“This settlement will have a significant effect on reducing sulfur dioxide emissions and will go a long way to improving public health,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic region.

The federal and state complaints, filed together with a proposed consent decree, alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act. Specifically, the U.S. and Pennsylvania alleged that Weyerhaeuser modified and operated two coal-fired power boilers without required upgrades to air pollution control equipment. The complaints also alleged that Weyerheauser failed to obtain required state-issued permits limiting sulfur dioxide emissions, and violated Clean Air Act standards applicable to fossil-fuel-fired steam generating units.

As part of the settlement, Weyerhaeuser did not admit liability for the alleged violations.

In the proposed consent decree, which is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval, Weyerhaeuser has agreed to pay a $900,000 penalty ($675,000 to the U.S. and $225,000 to Pennsylvania). In October 2003, the company completed installation of state-of-the-art sulfur dioxide (SO2) scrubbers on the plant’s power boilers, at a cost of about $5.5 million. The consent decree requires Weyerhaeuser to operate these scrubbers in accordance with standards designed to reduce SO2 air emissions by up to 95 percent.

Sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain which destroys lakes, rivers, streams, and crops, and may aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema. In addition, sulfur compounds in the air contribute to impaired visibility July 22, 2004 in large parts of the country.