April 10, 2003
ADM settles pollution charges
Company will pay $340 million to clean up plants
By DORI MEINERT
of Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Archer Daniels Midland, the largest ethanol producer in the nation, has settled federal air pollution charges by agreeing to spend $340 million over 10 years to reduce air pollution at 52 plants in 16 states, including four in Illinois, federal officials said Wednesday.
The worst offenders among the Illinois plants are in Peoria and Decatur, but the Decatur-based firm also has plants in Galesburg and Quincy.
In Illinois, ADM will spend $88 million over 10 years to reduce airborne pollutants by about 27,000 tons, according to federal and state officials. The Peoria plant will receive $17.5 million in improvements, reducing the plant's emissions by 6,000 tons over 10 years. Decatur will receive $70 million in upgrades.
In addition, central Illinois will benefit from $4.6 million of the $6.3 million that ADM will spend on environmental improvement projects nationwide under a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court for Central Illinois. And, Illinois will collect $371,000 of the $4.6 million civil penalty that ADM will pay.
In what federal officials called a landmark case, the agreement with ADM "will make our air cleaner both now and for future generations," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. It will provide a "healthier quality of life for all people who live near those facilities, everybody who is downwind from them."
Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano, who appeared with Whitman, said the "the settlement will result in cleaner air and the financial penalties will benefit the communities that have been impacted."
The settlement marks the first time the grain industry has been held accountable on a nationwide basis under the federal Clean Air Act, officials said.
The federal government, joined by Illinois and 13 other states and counties, alleged ADM failed to accurately estimate its emissions from hundreds of process units and expanded other units without the installation of required air pollution controls, violating the Clean Air Act.
ADM officials declined to answer questions, but issued a written statement noting that the penalties imposed were significantly lower than penalties in similar cases.
At its Peoria plant, ADM will add equipment to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from the coal-fired boilers, to reduce emissions during the transfer of ethanol to tanker trucks and to control particulate matter and volatile organic compounds from the feed-drying operations.
The byproduct of producing ethanol is a cattle feed. However, it must be dried in a process that is blamed for much of the pollution. ADM will take measures to control those dirty emissions, said Chris Romaine, a manager in the IEPA's air permit section.
"This is really good news. Indeed, the EPA is doing the right thing in making these companies address the pollution that we all live under continuously," said Joyce Blumenshine, a board member with the Heart of Illinois Sierra Club.
Of the $4.6 million for Illinois environmental projects, $2.3 million to reduce emissions from school buses in Knox, Adams, Christian, and Macon counties or any county bordering those counties; $250,000 will be used by the IEPA for not-for-profit watershed management programs to fund natural resource restoration and water quality enhancement; $1 million will go to the Illinois Conservation Foundation for acquisition or restoration of endangered habitat; $1 million will go toward future environmental enforcement; and $50,000 will go toward training government personnel in environmental enforcement.
ADM's competitors also will be made to comply with Clean Air Act requirements, said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti.
In addition to the ADM agreement, the EPA also announced a settlement with Alcoa Inc. of Pittsburgh, the world's largest aluminum producer. Alcoa will pay $330 million for a new, cleaner coal-fired power plant in Rockdale, Texas, a $1.5 million civil penalty and more than $3 million for environmental projects.
Ethanol critics are portraying the ADM settlement as yet another reason to reconsider the push to use more ethanol, which is added to gasoline to produce a less-polluting fuel. It highlights questions about the overall environmental benefit of ethanol, said Frank Maisano of the Oxygenated Fuels Association, which represents producers of the competing fuel additive MTBE.
Maisano also said the increased enforcement of clean-air laws on ethanol plants could make it harder for farmer-owned ethanol co-ops to compete. It also may fuel fears in some states, which are transitioning from MTBE to ethanol, over whether enough ethanol can be produced to meet the demand, he said.