- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

Attorney General Janet Reno Thursday announced a landmark $11.2 million settlement with an Oregon-based wood-products firm that was accused under the government's Clean Air Act of failing to install pollution-control equipment.
Miss Reno, at a press briefing with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner, said Willamette Industries Inc. failed to "install pollution-control equipment each time it expanded its factories … and, as a result, thousands of tons of pollution were illegally released into the air."
"Clean air is one of our most precious possessions, and we cannot take it for granted," Miss Reno said. "Dirty air is just plain unhealthy, it's uncomfortable, especially for our elderly, our children and others who are most vulnerable among us.
"We risk breathing it not only in our cities, plagued by smog, but in places such as our wonderful national parks, including the Great Smokies and Shenandoah," she said.
Miss Reno said the settlement requires Willamette Industries, which produces plywood and other building products, to pay an $11.2 million penalty, the largest penalty ever assessed for factory emissions of air pollution. The settlement also requires the company to install $74 million worth of pollution-control equipment at its 13 factories in Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas.
"The Clean Air Act required Willamette to install pollution-control equipment each time it expanded its factories … but we believe that Willamette did not follow the law, and as a result, thousands of tons of pollution were illegally released into the air," Miss Reno said.
Cathy Dunn, spokeswoman for Willamette Industries, described the settlement as similar to others that "have gone before us" and said it will allow the company to "install equipment that will improve the emissions from our facilities."
She said that while the new equipment will reduce the firm's emissions of volatile organic compounds, the company produced only a small percentage of airborne emissions in Oregon. "So, while we will be doing our part, others will have to do theirs too to reduce air pollution," she said.
The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, is the third and the largest in an ongoing effort by the Justice Department to ensure that the wood-products industry complies with the Clean Air Act. Previous settlements came in 1993 involving Louisiana Pacific and in 1996 with Georgia Pacific.
"It is only through these broad national enforcement efforts that we can fully address such air pollution in this country," Miss Reno said.
Mrs. Browner said 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."
Mrs. Browner said Willamette Industries also is required to develop an environmental management system, which will give the government an opportunity to "focus on, not just air pollution issues, but to focus on other pollution that may be associated with these companies or with this company."
She said the company is required under the settlement to do assessments not just for air pollution, but also water pollution and toxic waste "to really give us the full picture of what is going on at these facilities, information we cannot always get under the law."
"The terms of this settlement show once again that we are committed to an aggressive protection of our people, to an aggressive enforcement of the Clean Air Act; and if a company chooses to ignore the law, to pollute the air we breathe, they will pay a price," she said.

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