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Stone Container Corp. Settles Air Pollution Violations at Pulp and Paper Plant in West Point, Va. - In Second Clean Air Act Settlement with U.S. and Virginia, Company Pledges to Pay $950,000 Penalty and Improve Air Pollution Controls

Release Date: 9/9/2004
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department today announced that the U.S. has settled alleged violations of federal and state air pollution control laws at the company’s pulp and paper plant in West Point, Va.

Paul J. McNulty, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said his office filed a proposed consent decree, civil complaint and notice of publication in the U.S. District Court today. Under the terms of the settlement, which is subject to public comment and court approval, Stone Container Corporation will pay a $950,000 penalty and install pollution control equipment to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Virginia's Air Pollution Control Law.

“This settlement will have a significant effect on reducing SO2 and NOx 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.

Mr. McNulty stated: “With this settlement, the citizens of Virginia can breath a sigh of relief. It penalizes the company and requires the installation of new air pollution control equipment.”

The U.S. worked closely with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VaDEQ) in investigating and resolving this matter, and the $950,000 penalty will be divided equally between the U.S. and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The U.S. and Virginia alleged that Stone Container (and predecessor corporations St. Laurent Paper Products Corp. and Chesapeake Corp.) violated several regulations designed to limit emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2). The alleged violations include failing to install SO2 emission control equipment as part of major plant modifications in the 1980s and 1990s, and failing to obtain VaDEQ-issued air permits to limit SO2 emissions, required as a result of major plant modifications. EPA and VaDEQ issued Notices of Violation for these alleged acts in April 1999.

In addition to the $950,000 penalty, the consent decree requires Stone Container to comply with applicable Clean Air Act emission control and monitoring requirements, including upgrades pollution control equipment limiting emissions of SO2 and nitrous oxides (NOx). Stone Container will install a scrubber for SO2, special burners for NOx, and emission monitors for stack emissions. It is expected that the injunctive relief in the consent decree will reduce the plant’s SO2 emissions by more than 90 percent and its NOx emissions by more than 50 percent.

SO2 and NOx contribute to acid rain, which destroys lakes, rivers, streams, and crops. These pollutants may also cause breathing problems and lung damage, and may aggravate existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema. In addition, SO2 and NOx contribute to impaired visibility in large parts of the country.

As part of the settlement, Stone Container did not admit liability for the alleged violations. This is the second recent settlement of a federal-state lawsuit alleging air pollution violations by Stone Container Corporation in Virginia. On August 5, 2004, the U.S. Attorneys Office filed legal papers for a $835,000 settlement of similar Clean Air Act violations at the Stone Container plant in Hopewell, Va.

This case is being handled for the United States by Justice Department attorney Donna Duer, with assistance from EPA Assistant Regional Counsel Donna Mastro and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Sponseller.