Shell Chemical LP has agreed to a $10 million settlement where it will install pollution monitoring and control equipment at its Norco facility expected to eliminate more than 150 tons of harmful air pollutants a year.
The settlement resolves allegations that Shell violated the Clean Air Act and state law by failing to properly operate industrial flares at the facility. The settlement was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
Shell spokeswoman Rochelle Touchard said, “The provisions of the settlement are consistent with Shell Norco’s objectives and ongoing activities to reduce emissions at the site and upgrade our flaring infrastructure.”
The complaint alleges Shell Chemical’s violations resulted in “excess emissions of pollutants” including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and various hazardous air pollutants including benzene and nitrogen oxides.
Chronic exposure to benzene has been linked to blood disorders, reproductive issues and leukemia, and it is a chemical classified by the EPA as a carcinogen. Nitrogen oxide and VOCs exposure have been associated with respiratory problems and lung damage.
Under the consent decree, Shell Chemical has agreed to submit gas minimization plans that reduce waste gas sent to flares; determine the cause and correct “reportable flaring incidents,” operate an existing flare gas recovery system at the facility and to use it a higher percentage of time; install and operate flare monitoring and control equipment to assure high combustion efficiency at all flares subject to the settlement, and operate fence-line monitoring stations to detect the presence of benzene from the Norco plant. Monitoring data will be made available online.
Shell must also pay $350,000 in fines
When fully implemented, these controls are expected to lower VOCs by 159 tons a year, hazardous air pollutants by 18 tons a year and nitrogen oxide by two tons a year.
“As part of the agreement or voluntary consent decree settlement, Shell Norco will implement improved flare efficiency measures and undertake other projects to mitigate emissions at the facility,” Touchard said.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the settlement will improve air quality for citizens of Louisiana by reducing emissions of harmful air pollution.
Touchard said Shell was already making these changes.
“Shell Norco has a record of continuous improvement in environmental performance achieved through significant investment in emission reduction projects and heightened employee attention on preventing operational incidents,” she said. “Shell shares the goal of improving air quality, and our top priority is to protect the health and safety of community residents, our workers, and the environment.
“We strive to operate in compliance with all permits and regulations.”