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New York’s Largest Mercury Polluter Agrees to Settlement

January 22, 2010

NEW YORK, NY - The air surrounding the Lafarge Cement plant in Ravena, New York, and Lafarge plants in 11 other states, will be cleaner under a settlement announced Thursday by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Lafarge is agreeing to pay $5 million in fines and to cease emitting 35,000 tons of pollution nationwide each year.

Keri Powell, staff attorney for EarthJustice, says nitrogen oxide emissions at the Ravena plant are to be cut by 30 percent and sulfur dioxide by as much as 80 percent.

"The settlement is groundbreaking because it marks the first time that cement plants are being required to install serious air pollution control equipment."

The settlement follows federal and state lawsuits, which charged Lafarge with violating the Clean Air Act, adds Powell.

"What they found was that Lafarge had made changes to the plant that caused it to significantly increase air pollution, but they hadn't followed the law and installed up-to-date controls. We know that these plants present a huge public health problem; it's undeniable because there's so much air pollution coming out of their stacks."

Under terms of the settlement, Lafarge must significantly upgrade the air pollution controls at the Ravena site and also at cement plants in 11 other states. A company spokesperson was not available for comment. Lafarge's Ravena plant is the largest emitter of Mercury in New York State. The settlement follows a federal proposal to regulate mercury emissions from cement plants, and the EPA is expected to issue the rules this summer.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY