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Dow to spend millions to clean up air pollution

Plants in Louisiana and Texas are upgrading flares to settle EPA case

by Cheryl Hogue
January 29, 2021

Photo shows an industrial emission stack with a flare burning at its top.
Credit: Shutterstock

Dow Chemical Company and two of its subsidiaries will spend $294 million to curb air pollution from four petrochemical plants in Louisiana and Texas, under a proposed settlement with environmental regulators.

The US Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the facilities failed to properly operate and monitor flares when burning off waste gases, violating the Clean Air Act. This led to release of volatile organic compounds and toxic air pollutants including benzene, a human carcinogen, the EPA says.

Under the proposed settlement released Jan. 27, Dow and its subsidiaries Performance Materials and Union Carbide will reduce flaring and improve combustion of waste gases from the four plants, which manufacture olefins or polymers. The settlement covers facilities in Hahnville and Plaquemine, Louisiana, as well as Freeport and Orange, Texas.

“Those controls, plus a requirement for fence line monitoring of benzene emissions, will result in significant benefits” for nearby communities of color, Larry Starfield, EPA acting assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, says in a statement.

Dow began upgrading its flares in 2015, the company says in a statement provided to C&EN, and expects to finish this work in 2025. The millions it is pouring into this effort are from its operating capital expenditure budget, Dow adds.

Dow and its subsidiaries will also pay $3 million in civil penalties and perform three state-authorized beneficial environmental projects in Louisiana, which was a party to the case. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality will receive $675,000 of the civil penalty.



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