ICYMI: EPA grants petition expected to save money, jobs at ENC phosphate company
Megan Scarano and Sydney Basden
October 29, 2020
The Environmental Protection Agency has granted a petition from an area phosphate company that is expected to save more than $25 million and protect more than 1,000 jobs.
Officials say PCS Phosphate Company, Inc., now a subsidiary of Nutrien Ltd., filed a petition regarding the 2015 National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Phosphoric Acid Manufacturing. The new amendment, announced Thursday, makes revisions to the standards but is not expected to increase mercury or any other hazardous air pollutant, the EPA says.
The company's Aurora facility is the only source impacted, but officials say the petition will save approximately $26 million and 850 jobs, as well as 400 contractors. Nutrien's Vice President, Mike Dirham, says thanks to this announcement, Nutrien Aurora and the economy can continue to prosper.
“This rule is crucial to the long term economic impact and strength of our aurora phosphate operations as well as the economy of ENC," he said.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the amendment, five years in the making, will continue to protect the environment.
“The Trump Administration is committed to setting emissions standards that will protect public health and the environment and that are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act,” said Wheeler in a statement. “Today’s action shows, when reliable, new information becomes available, EPA will be responsive to stakeholder concerns that our regulatory reach is exceeding our statutory responsibility.”
According to Wheeler, the EPA knows how the community of Aurora depends on this company.
“You have the largest employer in danger of shutting down -- that devastates communities all across the country," he explained. "So, this was critically important for the people who live and work in this community, not just the people work here.”
In a statement provided by the EPA, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis echoed that sentiment.
“This amendment to the emissions standard for hazardous air pollutants is a big win for North Carolina and will save hundreds of jobs in eastern North Carolina,” he said. “I want to thank the administration for their continued attention to issues that face our great state and I applaud Administrator Wheeler for putting forth common sense, realistic goals that will ensure jobs stay in North Carolina, while also ensuring our environment is protected for the benefit of future generations.”
Officials say the site is the largest producer of purified phosphoric acid in the western hemisphere, which goes into things like toothpaste, soda and food preservatives. Nutrien and the EPA hope Thursday's announcement will be the beginning of even bigger things in the future.
“Today’s announcement is something to build off," Wheeler said, "and I hope we can find additional ways to help clean the environment and support local industry."
In the Sept. 2016 petition, the EPA says submitted data showed that the 2015 rule resulted in the facility's non-compliance, an unintended result of the NESHAP. After working with PCS Phosphate, the EPA says the revised emissions standard suits the requirements under the Clean Air Act while better reflecting the 2015 rule's intent. Officials say that without this action, unanticipated additional cost-prohibitive controls would have been required.
The 2015 changes to the Phosphoric Acid Manufacturing NESHAP set numerical mercury limits for calciners, but officials say it is being revised because newly available data and a site visit showed the standard was "not based on an accurate determination of the level of emission reductions that were achievable at the source."
Watch the full segment HERE.