A.G. Schneiderman & DEC Commissioner Martens Announce Continuing Air Pollution Reductions In Updated Settlement With Ravena Cement Plant

Modification Provides Albany County Company More Time To Build New Kiln While Continuing Air Pollution Emission Reductions Of Earlier Agreement

Company Required To Invest $1.5 Million In Additional Projects To Improve Air Quality In Local Communities

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, along with federal officials, today announced an amended settlement with Lafarge North America, which operates a cement plant in Albany County. The agreement extends by 18 months the deadline by which the company must build a new kiln with advanced air pollution controls.

In exchange for additional time, the settlement sets annual limits on allowable emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) by the Ravena plant that are at or below the limits contained in the original settlement. A separate agreement between New York and LaFarge limits mercury emissions to levels 25 percent lower than the plant's current air pollution control permit.

The revised settlement also commits Lafarge to funding $1.5 million in projects to further reduce pollution emissions at the plant and in the surrounding communities.

“This settlement will improve the air in Ravena and the surrounding area, while helping to ensure jobs stay in the community,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “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.”

"DEC is committed to demonstrating that New York can preserve the quality of our environment while supporting economic development," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "The amended settlement will yield cleaner air while enabling Lafarge to continue with its plan to modernize the Ravena plant, creating and preserving jobs in the process."

“Safeguarding the health of the community surrounding the Ravena plant is our top priority,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “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.”

Today's announced settlement amends a 2010 consent decree that the federal Environmental Protection Agency, New York and 11 other states entered into with Lafarge requiring the company to limit pollutant emissions from its 13 plants nationwide. In New York, the company's Ravena plant was required to meet these limits by either retrofitting the plant’s existing cement kilns with pollution controls or by constructing a new, state-of-the-art kiln with advanced pollution controls by January 1, 2015. Lafarge elected to construct a new kiln to comply with the consent decree, but approached the state and federal government about an extension of time to complete the construction because the recovery of the U.S. cement industry from the recent recession has been slower than expected, resulting in Lafarge delaying its investment in a new kiln at the Ravena plant. The amended consent decree, filed in federal court today, allows the company until July 1, 2016 to complete construction of the new kiln and requires Lafarge to follow a specific construction schedule that includes milestones and penalties if there are any further delays.

The 2010 consent decree required Lafarge to make substantial reductions in emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from its Ravena cement plant. Emissions of these pollutants contribute to smog and soot pollution and acid rain.

The amended consent decree sets revised caps on the emissions of NOx and SO2 by the Ravena plant. Under the updated agreement, SO2 emissions will be capped at levels 20 percent lower than allowed under the previous agreement and NOx emissions will be reduced to the same level as required by the 2010 agreement. Under a separate stipulation executed by the company and the State, Lafarge must cut its annual mercury emissions by 25 percent this year from the current permitted level and further limit mercury emissions equivalent to levels that would have been met had the new kiln been up and running on January 1, 2015. Upon court approval of the amended consent decree, all three pollutant limits will be incorporated into the facility’s operating permit, subject to public notice and comment.

In addition to emissions limits from the cement plant, the amended consent decree requires Lafarge to undertake $1.5 million of new emission reduction projects at the Ravena plant and in the surrounding area, including the replacement of its existing, old diesel-locomotive with a locomotive equipped with state-of-the-art air pollution controls. The state will be soliciting input from residents within 30 miles of the plant on other appropriate projects, such as funding additional energy efficiency or pollution reduction programs at nearby schools.

The amended consent decree was filed with the court (U.S. Southern District of Illinois) today and can be accessed here. The separate agreement signed by Lafarge and the State can be accessed here. Further information about the original 2010 consent decree between EPA, New York and Lafarge can be accessed here.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Myers and Policy Analyst Jeremy Magliaro of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. 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 W. Constantakes of DEC’s Office of General Counsel.