DECEMBER 2009

Formosa Plastics agrees to resolve environmental violations

Formosa Plastics Corp., Texas, and Formosa Plastics Corp., Louisiana, will spend more than $10 million on pollution controls to address air, water, and hazardous waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Point Comfort, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The companies also have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2.8 million to resolve violations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Under the agreement lodged in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, both the Texas and Louisiana facilities will implement a comprehensive CAA enhanced leak detection and repair program, which goes beyond regulatory requirements by requiring more stringent leak definitions, more frequent monitoring and monitoring and repair of additional chemical manufacturing equipment. The leak prevention practices agreed to in the settlement include an innovative program to replace valves with new “low leak” valve technology, which will significantly reduce the likelihood of future leaks. The enhanced program also includes requirements for periodic audits of the companies’ leak prevention practices to ensure compliance going forward.

The enhanced leak detection and repair program will potentially reduce the annual volatile organic compound (VOC) air emissions from the two Formosa facilities by approximately 6,570,000 pounds per year of VOCs, including hazardous air pollutants such as vinyl chloride.

The Formosa facilities also will undertake an enhanced vinyl chloride leak detection and elimination program designed to improve the companies’ systems for identifying and addressing leaks of vinyl chloride.

In addition, the settlement requires both facilities to undertake analyses to prevent future wastewater discharge violations. The Formosa Texas facility will undertake a comprehensive review of its compliance with EPCRA’s toxic release reporting requirements, and the Formosa Louisiana facility will cease improper disposal of certain listed hazardous wastes.

The case was initiated as a result of inspections conducted by EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center at Formosa’s Point Comfort and Baton Rouge facilities. During the inspections, EPA identified extensive Clean Air Act leak detection and repair violations, including failing to properly monitor leaking components, failing to include chemical manufacturing equipment in its leak detection and repair program, and failing to timely repair leaking equipment. Inspectors also identified a variety of hazardous waste violations at both facilities.

In addition, the inspectors found that Formosa had violated wastewater discharge limits under its CWA permits, and, at the Texas facility, had failed to comply with the CAA benzene waste operations requirements and to submit correct toxic release reporting information to EPA.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day comment period and final approval by the court.