Washington — An Oregon-based wood products company will pay a record $11.2 million fine to the government under a Clean Air Act settlement announced Thursday.
The agreement also requires Willamette Industries of Portland, Ore., to install an estimated $74 million worth of pollution control equipment at 13 factories in four states, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner said.
Browner, who announced the agreement with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, said the drop in pollution provided by the new equipment will equal that of removing all the automobiles from a city the size of Portland.
The fine is the largest ever assessed for factory emissions of air pollution, according to a Justice Department release.
Environmentalists welcomed the agreement.
"We applaud the administration for vigorously enforcing the Clean Air Act and for holding a polluter accountable," said Ed Hopkins, a spokesman for the Sierra Club. "We think it's important for the EPA to send a signal to polluters that they need to comply with the act -- and this is a big signal."
Reno said the Clean Air Act required Willamette to install pollution control equipment each time it expanded its factories, which produce plywood and other building products.
"But we believe that Willamette did not follow the law," she said.
Browner said past expansions at Willamette's factories may have eluded neighbors and regulators because the company installed machines that expanded production without necessarily increasing the size of the factories.
Browner, citing EPA estimates, said the cleanup settlement will eliminate almost 27,000 tons of air pollution over the next 2years -- equivalent to taking 287,000 cars off the road.
On the Net: Willamette Industries: www.wii.com.
Attorney General's office: www.usdoj.gov/ag/index.html.