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Michigan Sugar settles Clean Air Act permit violations

Release Date: 05/15/2008
Contact Information: William Omohundro, 312-353-8254, omohundro.william@epa.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 08-OPA088

(Chicago, Ill. - May 15, 2008) Michigan Sugar, a grower-owned sugar cooperative located in Bay City, Mich., will use pollution reduction measures valued at more than $13 million at its processing facility to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced today. Along with the pollution reduction measures, Michigan Sugar will also pay a $210,000 civil penalty.

"Today's settlement secures permanent and substantial emission reductions for citizens in the affected states," said EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator Bharat Mathur. "Sugar beet processing facilities can be major sources of air pollution, and this agreement raises the bar for the industry."

The cooperative has agreed to shut down old equipment and use cutting-edge technology that will reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 446 tons per year.

Michigan Sugar dries and processes beets to make sugar. The sugar is sold under the brand names of Pioneer Sugar and Big Chief Sugar. The sugar beet pulp is processed in dryers that generate VOCs and carbon monoxide. The cooperative agreed to use new equipment which will reduce emissions to nearly zero.

The government complaint alleges that the company violated federal and state clean air laws by building a pulp dryer and also by subsequently increasing operating hours without obtaining the appropriate permits. These permits are required to control emissions of VOCs and carbon monoxide.

VOCs contribute to the formation of smog. The primary component of smog is ozone, a gas that is created when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, especially in strong sunlight. Smog can cause a variety of respiratory problems and is a risk for people with asthma, children and the elderly.

The consent decree, lodged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

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