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Environmental Enforcement: Terra Industries Settles Air Pollution Allegations for $17m

Terra Industries, one of the nation’s largest producers of nitric acid and nitrogen fertilizers, has agreed to spend over $17.5 million to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced today.

An estimated $17 million of the total will be spent on installing pollution controls at nine Terra facilities in Iowa, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The EPA expects the new controls to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions at its facilities by at least 1,200 tons per year.

The company, purchased last year by CF Industries, has also agreed to pay a further $625,000 in civil penalties to the co-plaintiffs named in the action filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Sioux City.

Terra will pay $325,000 to the United States and $100,000 each to the state of Iowa, the state of Mississippi, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Terra’s nine plants covered by the settlement include four nitric acid plants at Yazoo City, Miss.; two each at Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, and Verdigris, Okla.; and one at Woodward, Okla.

According to the consent decree, Terra allegedly constructed, modified, and operated its facilities without obtaining appropriate pre-construction and operating permits, and without installing the best available control technology for controlling air pollution. Terra also allegedly violated the Clean Air Act by failing to comply with applicable air emission limits and ongoing requirements for emissions monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting at some of its facilities.

“Illegal air pollution from the production of nitric acid can leave the public vulnerable to long-term health problems such as respiratory illness and asthma,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Bringing Terra into compliance with the Clean Air Act will protect the public health of communities across Iowa, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.”

Reducing air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including acid facilities, is one of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. The initiative continues the EPA’s focus on improving compliance with the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution.

In fiscal year 2010, the agency’s enforcement actions in the cement manufacturing, coal-fired power plant, glass and acid sectors led to approximately 370 million pounds of pollution reduced or treated, $1.4 billion in estimated pollution controls and $14 million in civil penalties.

Major 2010 settlements occurring as part of this initiative include a $500 million settlement with Westar energy and a $5 million settlement with cement manufacturer Lafarge North America.

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