Feb. 13 (UPI) -- As part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department, Shell Chemical LP agreed to install $10 million in pollution monitoring and control equipment at a Louisiana plant.
The settlement resolves allegations that Shell violated the U.S. Clean Air Act and Louisiana law by failing to properly operate industrial flares at the facility.
Installing the equipment will help reduce harmful air pollution from four flares at the Norco, La., plant, the Justice Department said.
Shell Chemical LP is the petrochemicals arm of energy giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Once in place, the pollution controls are estimated to reduce air emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, by about 159 tons per year and reduce benzene by about 18 tons per year.
VOCs are a key element in the formation of ground-level ozone, which can irritate the lungs, exacerbate asthma and increase susceptibility to pneumonia and bronchitis in humans. The EPA classifies benzene as a carcinogen, and says chronic exposure to the pollutant can cause leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women.
"This settlement will improve air quality for citizens of Louisiana by reducing emissions of harmful air pollution," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. "Today's agreement demonstrates EPA's dedication to working with states to pursue violations of laws that are critical to protecting public health and bring companies into compliance."
Chuck Carr Brown, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality secretary, said his department is committed to working with federal partners to reduce air pollution in Louisiana.
"Actions like this one not only serve to clean up the air our citizens breathe, they send a message that we will not tolerate violations of federal or state laws," Brown said.
Under the agreement, Shell will take steps to minimize the amount of waste gas sent to the flares and operate a flare gas recovery system, which allows the company to use the waste gas as fuel instead of it being sent to the facility's flares.
Shell also agreed to install and maintain monitoring equipment to detect air pollution and publish the results on a public website, and pay $350,000 in civil penalties including $87,500 to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.