Enforcement

Air Liquide America Corporation Clean Air Act Settlement

The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 21, 2001 announced a groundbreaking Clean Air Act settlement with Air Liquide America Corporation to replace refrigerant chemicals that destroy the earth's stratospheric ozone layer with environmentally friendly alternatives.

The United States charged Air Liquide with illegally releasing ozone-depleting gases from industrial process refrigeration systems at 22 facilities located in 18 states. The agreement, resolving violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), was filed in U.S. District Court in Texas. It requires Air Liquide to convert all its industrial refrigeration systems now using regulated ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to systems using alternative, environmentally friendly refrigerants. The company also will fund an "environmental justice" supplemental project that will benefit a lower income, predominately minority community in Louisiana, and pay a $4.5 million civil penalty.

"Air Liquide's actions are an excellent example of cooperation between a company and the government to find a solution that averts further damage to the ozone-layer and involves tangible measures that preserve an undisturbed area of land from future development," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. The ozone layer is located in the upper atmosphere 30 miles above the earth's surface. This layer of gas screens individuals from the sun's powerful and harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. Increased radiation also can damage important food crops and marine ecosystems.

Air Liquide will replace or completely retrofit 46 industrial refrigeration systems to coolant methods that are environmentally benign, and will retire seven more systems which use ozone-depleting refrigerants. The company also will dedicate an undeveloped parcel of land having ecological value as open or "green" space in the industrialized area of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. This land will not be used for industrial purposes in the future and is considered an "environmental justice" supplemental project aimed at benefiting the primarily lower income, predominately minority community. The project is valued at $422,000. Additionally, the company will donate a two-acre parcel of land it owns in Westlake, Louisiana to the Carlyss Fire Department for a new two-bay fire and emergency response station. This particular project is valued at about $78,000. Air Liquide could have continued to use regulated, ozone-depleting refrigerants in these systems for an indefinite period of time, provided the company complied with CAA requirements. Instead, the company chose to voluntarily revamp its refrigeration processes.

The civil settlement is subject to to a 30-day comment period and final court approval.

Questions about ozone depletion or EPA rules concerning CFCs may be directed to the Agency's Stratospheric Ozone Hotline at 800-296-1996.