Equistar to spend $125m in response to US lawsuit

19 July 2007 00:21  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Lyondell subsidiary Equistar has agreed to spend more than $125m (€91m) to reduce and clean up pollution, in response a lawsuit filed by the US and several states, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by the US Justice Department.

The clean-up project is in response to a consent decree filed in federal district court in Illinois, the agencies said. The decree is subject to a 30-day comment period and approval by the court.

Equistar was unavailable for comment on Wednesday evening.

Under the decree, Equistar will invest in measures that will significantly reduce air, water and hazardous waste pollution at its plants in Morris, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Channelview, Chocolate Bayou, Corpus Christi and La Porte, Texas.

Equistar will be the first company in the petrochemical industry to adopt the environmental measures called for by the decree, many of which exceed regulatory requirements, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under the first 18 months of the settlement, Equistar will conduct several environmental audits that will identify any additional problems, the statement said. Equistar will then report the audit's results to regulators and resolve the problems

Equistar will also monitor and fix leaks of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and air pollutants, the statement said. It will replace equipment that uses chemicals that deplete the ozone.

In addition, Equistar will reduce VOC flares. If VOC flares do occur, Equistar will pay penalties based on the amount of pollution it releases, the statement said.

At the Channelview plant, Equistar will install a wastewater-treatment system that will reduce harmful emissions by at least 26 tonnes/year. The company will also eliminate the disposal of 150,000 tonnes/year of waste contaminated with D018 benzene.

Under the decree, Equistar will pay a civil penalty of $2.5m and spend $6.56m on federal and state environmental projects, the statement said.

The suit arose from inspections conducted by the EPA at Equistar's plants in Channelview and Morris, the statement said. The EPA found extensive violations.

Also, the company failed to immediately notify federal and state emergency response centres about spills and other releases of hazardous materials.

After Equistar learned of the violations, it agreed to address the problems at all seven of its plants.

The company has already started to correct the problems and will continue to do so, the statement said.

($1 = €0.73)
By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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