MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 3, 2012

Settlement $39M in pollution case

Local glass factory among five involved in consent decree in which company will install air scrubbers

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— An Ohio-based manufacturer of glass containers agreed to pay a $1.45 million penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Muskogee plant and four others.

Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc. will spend an additional $37.5 million to install pollution controls designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Owens-Illinois, is the nation’s largest manufacturer of glass containers.

The terms of the agreement are included in a consent decree filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio. The settlement resolves civil complaints filed by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Beth Peery, regional communications manager for Owens-Illinois North America, said the company’s “policy is to conduct all of its operations in compliance” with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. Although it disputes the allegations, the company “has agreed as part of the settlement to install equipment that will reduce air emissions” at factories in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas.

“The company has also agreed to install continuous emissions monitoring systems,” Peery said. “The company has already begun to install some of the equipment, and this process will continue over the next several years.”

Complaints filed against Owens-Brockway’s Muskogee plant allege the company made major modifications without obtaining legally required permits. Those modifications, state and federal regulators allege, significantly increased harmful emissions in violation of its existing permit.

A notice of violation issued April 29, 2009, alleges the company completed the modifications two decades ago. After reinitiating operations in 1992, regulators allege, the Muskogee plant failed to include best available control technology for nitrogen oxides in violation of its permit

Nitrogen oxides are known to cause or contribute to a variety of health problems for children and adults who suffer from lung disease or asthma and those who work or play outdoors. The pollutant can have an adverse impact on the environment, contributing to visual impairments, water quality deterioration, ground-level ozone, acid rain and global warming.

Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said the settlement is the latest in a series of agreements struck with glassmakers.

“This agreement will significantly reduce the amount of air pollution, known to cause a variety of environmental and health problems, from the nation’s largest manufacturer of glass containers,” Moreno said in a media release. “The settlement ... addresses major sources of pollution at facilities located in four states and will mean cleaner air for the people living in those communities.”

Of the $1.45 million assessed in civil penalties, ODEQ will receive $242,000. ODEQ enforces the state’s federally enforceable state implementation plan for the enforcement of the Clean Air Act.

The Muskogee glass plant began operating in 1947 as Brockway Glass Co. Owens-Illinois acquired Brockway Inc. in 1988 and formed Owens-Brockway as a subsidiary. Owens-Brockway operates 19 glass container plants in 14 states.

The proposed settlement, which is subject to a 30-day comment period, involves five factories. Peery said Owens-Brockway closed one of the five in 2010 for unrelated business reasons.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.