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Environmental Enforcement: Biomass Plants Fined $835,000 For Clean Air Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have settled claims brought against two biomass power plants in California’s Central Valley, the agencies announced yesterday.

The companies have agreed to pay a combined civil penalty of $835,000 to resolve allegations they violated federal Clean Air Act and District rules by emitting nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide exceeding their permit limits.

The settlements require both facilities to install equipment to improve monitoring and reporting of air pollutants by enhancing automation of control systems for nitrogen oxides emissions. Under the settlements, both companies also agreed to prepare more stringent control plans to minimize emissions of air pollutants.

According to the EPA, the companies have already installed controls it estimates will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by up to 180 tons per year and carbon monoxide by up to 365 tons per year.

Ampersand Chowchilla Biomass, LLC and Merced Power, LLC will pay penalties of $343,000 and $492,000, respectively.

Biomass power plants use green waste from farms and other operations that would otherwise be subject to open burning, and construction debris that might have gone to a landfill, to generate power.

The San Joaquin Valley, home to both facilities, boasts five of 10 cites with the worst air quality in the nation according to a recent survey by the American Lung Association, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.  According to the EPA, the region exceeds the national health standards for ozone and particulate matter.

The proposed consent decrees were lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, and are subject to a 30-day public comment period prior to approval by the court.

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