AG Van Hollen: Wisconsin Department of Justice reaches multi-state settlement with glass manufacturer

For More Information Contact:

Bill Cosh 608/266-1221

MADISON – Today, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s Office and nine states announced that they had reached a settlement with a national glass manufacturer doing business in Burlington, Wisconsin, resolving allegations that the company illegally refurbished and extended the lives of its many glass furnaces without obtaining required permits and without installing state of the art air pollution controls required under the federal Clean Air Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., must pay a $1.15 million civil penalty to the United States, and $1.1 million in civil penalties to the intervening states and agencies. Wisconsin will receive $100,000 as its share of the civil penalty to the states.

In addition, Saint-Gobain is expected to install pollution control equipment at an estimated cost of $112 million to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM) by approximately 6,000 tons per year at its 15 plants in 12 states.

The settlement requires Saint-Gobain to reduce its SO2 emissions from its fleet of furnaces by approximately 59 percent; its emissions of NOx emissions by approximately 41 percent; and its PM emissions by 28 percent by installing emissions controls it failed to install when they were required.

The state and federal complaints, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, allege repeated violations by Saint-Gobain of the federal New Source Review (NSR) program under the federal Clean Air Act, and of state laws and regulations in each of the facility host states. The federal government and the ten state and two local governments alleged that the company constructed new glass furnaces or modified existing ones over the course of two decades without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment.

The Wisconsin complaint filed in the Washington court alleges that St. Gobain, without first obtaining the required construction permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), made capacity and dimension modifications at the Burlington plant that could increase emissions of SO2. Those changes included converting two of its furnaces to oxyfuel furnaces.

The settlement also requires the company, including its Burlington plant, to meet more stringent sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission limits during different levels of operation and to provide for continuous monitoring of emissions immediately.

A Consent Decree has been lodged by the United States Department of Justice (representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and the participating states in the court in Washington. The Consent Decree is now available for public comment for a 30-day period, after which the court is expected to enter the Consent Decree so that its terms may be fully implemented.

Exposure to excessive amounts of SO2 can aggravate asthma, cause respiratory difficulties, and result in emergency room visits and hospitalization. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to SO2’s effects. Exposure to particulate matter is also linked to respiratory problems like asthma and other adverse health effects.

The other states and agencies participating in the settlement with Wisconsin are Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Washington, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District.

Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Dosch and Thomas Dawson handled the case for the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office. The WDNR assisted the Wisconsin Department of Justice by providing information on violations and advising on needed remedies at the Burlington facility.