Boise Cascade Must Cut Air Pollution by 95 Percent

WASHINGTON, DC, March 14, 2002 (ENS) - The first pre-litigation use of mediation by the United States in a Clean Air Act enforcement action has achieved a settlement between wood products industry giant Boise Cascade Corporation and the federal government.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday an agreement with Boise Cascade that will require reductions of up to 95 percent of the harmful emissions from the company's eight plywood and particle board plants. The plants are located in Oregon, Washington, Louisiana and Idaho.

The company will also pay $4.35 million in civil penalties.

"The unique mediation process used by the parties enabled the participants to examine all sides of the issue and develop a plan for accomplishing the critical goal of maintaining air quality," said attorney John Bickerman of Washington, DC based Bickerman Dispute Resolution, who served as mediator. He said the solution "benefits all."

The federal government claims that Boise Cascade has modified and expanded its panel board operations over the past 20 years without installing the proper air pollution control equipment to reduce harmful emissions.


Steam emitted by Boise Cascade plant at Emmett, Idaho. (Photos courtesy Intermountain Society of American Foresters)
This equipment is required by the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations under the new source review provisions of the federal Clean Air Act and state rules.

The new source review program is designed to prevent deterioration of U.S. air quality. It requires newly constructed or modified sources of air pollution, such as electric utilities and wood products factories, to obtain permits and install air pollution control equipment to reduce their emissions before they undertake construction or modification.

A consent decree filed Wednesday in Oregon Federal District Court, requires Boise Cascade to install state-of-the-art air pollution control equipment at an estimated cost of $15 million over the next three years at its Medford and Elgin, Oregon, operations, and the Florien and Oakdale plants in Louisiana.

In addition, the company must select one of three pollution control options to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by its particle board facility in Island City, Oregon. Boise Cascade has agreed to spend another $2.9 million in supplemental controls to reduce emissions at the Yakima and Kettle Falls, Washington plants, and to control certain units at the Medford, Oregon plywood facility.


Boise Cascade plywood veneer plant at Emmett, Idaho
Boise Cascase CEO George Harad said, "This is an appropriate resolution of the disputed issues. The implementation of these additional pollution controls and environmental projects supports Boise Cascade's and the government's joint goal of continuously improving air quality."

The company says that overall, the controls are expected to collectively reduce air emissions of VOCs by an estimated total of 1,766 tons per year. VOCs are linked with the formation of ground level ozone, or smog, and VOCs and particulate matter are known to contribute to respiratory illnesses, especially in children and the elderly.

Additionally, Boise Cascade expects annual emission reductions of over 400 tons of particulate matter. Inhalation of particulate matter is linked with respiratory illnesses and most recently with cardiovascular disease.

The state of Louisiana joined in the settlement and will receive a $250,000 share in the penalties.

The settlement with Boise Cascade comes two years after the EPA issued its first notice of violation to the company in March 2000. The settlement agreement is the fifth effort by the EPA and the states to ensure the wood products industry complies with major Clean Air Act permitting requirements. Previous settlements have been reached with Louisiana-Pacific in 1993, Weyerhaeuser in 1995, Georgia Pacific in 1996, and Willamette Industries in 2000.

Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, says the Boise Cascade agreement is part of a larger picture of new source review enforcement.

"This settlement is one of a dozen national settlements in the past several years to enforce the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act across the wood products, petroleum refining, steel mini-mill and coal fired utility industries, and sends the message that we will be tenacious in our enforcement efforts," he said. "Boise Cascade's willingness to settle the case will help improve human health and the environment in the communities near its plants."