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News Releases from Region 09

U.S. EPA Requires J.R. Simplot Company to Reduce Emissions at Sulfuric Acid Plant in San Joaquin Valley

Contact Information: 
Soledad Calvino (calvino.maria@epa.gov)

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice today announced a settlement with the J.R. Simplot Company that will resolve a Clean Air Act enforcement case involving its sulfuric acid plant near Lathrop, Calif.

Under the settlement, Simplot will spend over $40 million on pollution controls that will significantly cut sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at a total of five acid plants in three states: the Lathrop facility and two plants each in Pocatello, Idaho, and Rock Springs, Wyo. Once implemented, the settlement will reduce SO2 emissions from Simplot's five plants by more than 50 percent, approximately 2,540 tons per year of reductions. Simplot will carry out a plan to monitor SO2 emissions continuously at all five facilities.

The company will pay a civil penalty of $899,000 and has agreed to fund an environmental mitigation project valued at $200,000 to reduce particulate matter pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. This special project with the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District will provide incentives to residents living in the San Joaquin Valley to replace or retrofit inefficient, higher-polluting wood-burning stoves and fireplaces with cleaner-burning, more energy-efficient appliances.

"This action will lead to a 265-ton per year cut of harmful sulfur dioxide emissions from the Lathrop plant - that's a 56% reduction," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Our goal is to protect San Joaquin Valley residents from air pollution that can worsen asthma and other respiratory ailments."

"Under this proposed settlement, Simplot must upgrade its pollution controls and cut harmful air pollution in half at its acid plants, bringing lasting benefits to communities in three states," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act, which protects public health and air quality for Americans each and every day."

The J.R. Simplot Company is one of the largest privately held food and agribusiness companies in the nation. Its Lathrop facility is located about 10 miles south of Stockton, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, which is currently classified as serious nonattainment for fine particulates PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards and suffers from poor air quality. The Valley is challenged with some of the highest levels of fine particulates and smog in the nation due to vehicle exhaust, weather patterns and topography. SO2 is a precursor for the formation of fine particulates, so both the SO2 emission reductions from Simplot's Lathrop plant and the wood stove replacement mitigation project will help reduce PM2.5 emissions in the San Joaquin Valley.

The emissions reductions resulting from today's settlement will also yield significant human health and environmental benefits for the communities in Pocatello, Idaho, and Rock Springs, Wyo., where Simplot operates two acid plants in each location.

Short-term exposures to SO2 can lead to serious respiratory problems, including constriction of airways in the lungs and increased asthma symptoms. Additionally, SO2 is a precursor to the formation of PM2.5, which causes a wide variety of health and environmental impacts, including asthma attacks, reduced lung function, and aggravation of existing heart disease.

The state of Idaho on behalf of its Department of Environmental Quality and the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District are parties to the proposed settlement.

This settlement is part of EPA's national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from large sources of pollution, which includes sulfuric acid plants, under the Clean Air Act's Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements. This will be the 13th acid settlement under the acid initiative and the 9th sulfuric acid settlement. The emission rates secured in this settlement will result in the best-controlled, system-wide emissions achieved in any sulfuric acid plant settlement to-date.

The consent decree formalizing the settlement was lodged with the U.S. District Court in the District of Idaho and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The proposed consent decree can be viewed at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.

For more information about today's settlement, visit:

Learn more about EPA's Clean Air Act acid plant enforcement initiative at:

For more information on the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District's Burn Cleaner Program, visit: http://valleyair.org/grants/burncleaner.htm

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