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2 companies settle claims of Clean Air Act violations, EPA says

| Thursday, April 10, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two companies have agreed to settle federal pollution charges by spending nearly $680 million to reduce industrial air pollution in 16 states and retrofit school buses with cleaner-burning engines, the government said Wednesday.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. of Decatur, Ill., the nation's biggest ethanol producer, agreed to a $350.9 million settlement and Alcoa, Inc. of Pittsburgh, the world's largest aluminum producer, agreed to a $334.75 million settlement, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said.

ADM will spend $340 million to improve pollution controls at 52 plants in 16 states and $6.3 million to retrofit diesel engines in school buses. The company also will pay a $4.6 million civil penalty, EPA and Justice officials said.

Alcoa agreed to spend $330 million for a new coal-fired power plant with state-of-the-art pollution controls in Rockdale, Texas, $2.5 million to buy conservation easements around the plant, and $750,000 to retrofit school buses in Austin, Texas, the officials said. The company also will pay a $1.5 million civil penalty.

Officials at the two companies did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the settlements.

The ADM settlement was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, while the Alcoa settlement was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Both are subject to 30 days of public comment and court approval.

The agreements were to be announced yesterday by the EPA and the Justice Department.

"These cases are a significant indication that enforcement continues aggressively at the agency," EPA spokesman Joe Martyak said.

The enforcement actions were initiated under provisions of the Clean Air Act that affect the way older industrial plants have to deal with air pollution when they expand, make major repairs or modify operations to increase efficiency.

The Bush administration issued rules last year making it easier for industrial plants and refineries to modernize without having to buy expensive pollution controls, immediately resulting in lawsuits by states charging that the changes undermine public health.

The administration has said its new approach removes barriers to production and innovation, while opponents have argued it is a giveaway to industry, which lobbied heavily for easing the rules, and undermines more than three decades of law.

At the same time, the administration has been promoting a "Clear Skies" bill to impose nationwide caps on power plant, refinery and factory emissions that are three major sources of dirty air: mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Opponents argue for a broader approach to include industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, widely blamed for global warming.

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