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Release Date: 07/20/2000
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THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2000 DOJ: (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON – Willamette Industries will spend more than $90 million to settle a major environmental suit alleging that it failed to control the amount of air pollution released from its wood product factories in four states, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department and the EPA.

The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, requires the company to install state-of-the-art pollution controls at 13 facilities in Arkansas, Oregon, Louisiana and South Carolina. The company also must pay an $11.2 million penalty -- the largest ever assessed for factory emissions of air pollution. The agreement also requires the Portland-based company to spend an additional $8 million on environmental projects.

“This settlement will improve air quality for thousands of people who live around these factories,” said Attorney General Janet Reno. “Willamette must now take responsibility and curb its pollution, so these factories will not pose a health risk to our citizens.”
The settlement resolves allegations, contained in a complaint that was filed along with the agreement, that Willamette failed to install pollution controls, accurately report air emissions, and obtain air emissions permits for 13 of its facilities. As a result, thousands of tons of pollution were illegally released into the air. The facilities, which produce plywood and other building materials, are located in: Chester, S.C.; Emerson and Malvern Ark.; Dodson, Ruston, Zwolle, Lillie, and Simsboro, La.; and Albany, Bend, Eugene, Foster and Springfield, Ore.

“Today we are announcing the largest enforcement penalty ever taken against a single ‘smokestack’ company under the Clean Air Act,” said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “When a company chooses to pollute the air, it is not just breaking the law, it is placing the health of our families at risk. The Clinton-Gore Administration has fought and will continue to fight to protect the health of our families – especially our children – from polluters.”

The settlement covers more facilities than any other case ever brought under the Clean Air Act provision designed to ensure that air quality does not deteriorate in areas that have previously been deemed to have clean air. Under the provision, companies in these designated areas must install air pollution controls before building new plants or modifying old ones.

The new pollution-control equipment required by today’s settlement, with an estimated cost of $74 million, will prevent Willamette’s factories from releasing an estimated 27,000 tons of pollutants, resulting in significantly cleaner air in the surrounding communities.

The states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and South Carolina are joining the federal settlement, and they will share in the civil penalty that Willamette must pay. The states will be instrumental in carrying out the environmental improvement projects that Willamette will fund under the agreement.

Pollution of the type emitted from Willamette’s facilities, known as volatile organic compounds, is a component of smog. This air pollution can lead to breathing problems, especially among children and the elderly, eye irritation, and reduced resistance to colds and other infections. It can also accelerate the aging of lung tissue.

The United States reached similar settlements with Georgia-Pacific in 1996 and Louisiana-Pacific in 1993 under a nationwide initiative to ensure that the entire wood products industry complies with the Clean Air Act.


July 20, 2000

Background: Willamette Industries, Inc. of Portland, Oregon must pay a civil penalty of $11.2 million for failure to comply with Clean Air Act (CAA) permitting procedures. Willamette will spend an additional $8 million on Supplemental Environmental Projects, making this the largest stationary source Clean Air Act case.

To protect the environment and public health, the settlement requires Willamette to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment, valued at approximately $74 million, at 13 of its facilities located in four states.

The Willamette Industries, Inc., settlement is the latest action in EPA’s national enforcement effort against wood product manufacturers for violations of the Clean Air Act. EPA or states have already reached settlements with three other companies (Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific and Weyerhauser). This action is a natural culmination of the government’s investigation of the Wood Products Industry and a continuing effort against recalcitrant violators since a Consent Decree was first lodged against Louisiana-Pacific in 1993.

With today’s action, the four largest companies, representing well over half the value of the wood products industry, have been brought into compliance with the major permitting requirements of the Clean Air Act.

  • The government alleges that Willamette failed to obtain proper Clean Air Act permits.
  • The PSD program was designed to prevent deterioration of these clean air areas, and only by being subjected to PSD review, or by taking and abiding by federally enforceable permit limitations, can we guarantee emissions will not have detrimental impact on the air quality in attainment areas.
  • Under the law, a company seeking to construct or modify a major facility that emits air pollution must obtain a permit before proceeding. To comply with the permitting procedures, a company must determine the nature of the emissions created by its manufacturing processes and report its findings to state and federal air permitting authorities.

Willamette Facilities Required to Install Pollution Controls:
  • 13 facilities in four states. The facilities are specifically located in: Chester, SC; Emerson and Malvern Ark.; Dodson, Ruston, Zwolle, Lillie, and Simsboro, LA; Bend, Eugene, Foster, Springfield and Albany, Oregon.

  • Civil penalty of $11.2 million for failure to comply with permitting procedures.
  • The company has agreed to spend a total of $8 million dollars in extra projects to be shared with South Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The SEPs to be performed include pollution reduction projects, alternative fuels projects, community sewer and water system improvements, and state parkland donations, and concentrated in the immediate areas where Willamette facilities are located, many of which are economically disadvantaged areas. Four million dollars will be spent for additional pollution control at plants in Oregon and $4 million dollars will be spent for parkland acquisition (Ark); sewer system improvements (LA) and ethanol fueling stations to encourage fleets to use clean fuels (SC)
  • To protect the environment and public health, the settlement requires Willamette to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment, valued at approximately $74 million, at 13 of its facilities located in four states.

Environmental benefits derived from the consent decree:
  • Installation of state-of-the-art pollution control equipment at 13 of Willamette’s facilities over the next 2 years will mean emission reductions of 17,500 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); 8,100 tons of particulate matter (PM); and 1,020 tons of Carbon Monoxide (CO) over the life of the consent decree (approximately five years).
  • The consent decree also requires the company to conduct multi-media audits at the facilities affected by this settlement, develop and implement parametric monitoring plans, and apply for proper air permits for the facilities currently out of compliance.