Time to clean up the Solutia coal burner in Springfield, MA

Groups File Intent to Sue State Over Pollution from Solutia Coal Plant

Overdue Air Permit Is Causing Violation of Health Standards in Springfield Region

February 11, 2013

Springfield, MA – Springfield-based Arise for Social Justice joined today with the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), an environmental research organization, to request that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection bring air pollution controls at the Solutia manufacturing plant in Indian Orchard into compliance with current health standards.

Solutia burns coal on site to generate heat and power for its layered glass manufacturing facility. The groups filed a Notice of Intent to Sue letter (NOI) with the DEP based on the Department’s failure to renew the facility’s air pollution permit for more than three years. The Department’s inaction allows the plant to emit levels of air pollution now known to endanger human health, based on the best available science.

PFPI commissioned independent air pollution modeling of the facility, which demonstrates that Solutia’s coal emissions are likely causing a violation of EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the Springfield region. The modeling also indicated that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions may exceed allowable limits, which can contribute to ground-level ozone formation and poor air quality in the summer months.

“Our modeling shows that coal emissions from the Solutia facility create hot spots of SO2 pollution up to 50% greater than state health standards allow,” noted Mary Booth, Director of PFPI. “The modeling used conservative assumptions, so if anything underestimated the impact of the coal-burner on the region’s air quality.”

Prior to filing the NOI with DEP, the groups contacted Eastman Chemical, which purchased Solutia in 2012, to ask the company to address the likely air quality violations by voluntarily eliminating coal burning at the facility. The company did not respond to the request.

“We are disappointed that the company did not take this opportunity to benefit the health of their local community,” said PFPI Attorney Kelly Bitov. “Given that Springfield is an environmental justice community, the air quality in Springfield is of special concern to Massachusetts regulators, and we hope it would be for Eastman Chemical as well.”

Bitov added, “We are looking forward to DEP re-opening the permit for this antiquated facility, and are optimistic that any new permit will effectively eliminate their use of coal.”

The Solutia facility emits hundreds of tons of sulfur dioxide per year, as well as significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and hazardous air pollutants like hydrochloric acid.

Among Massachusetts’ poorest cities, Springfield’s air quality has received an “F” rating from the American Lung Association. According to the most recent (2007/2008) data available from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Health, five of the six public schools within two miles of the Solutia facility had asthma rates higher than the state average, with rates ranging from 18 to 22 percent. The state average was 10.9 percent.

Michaelann Bewsee, Executive Director of Arise, said “We appreciate the importance of Solutia as a local employer, but the company shouldn’t be burning coal near downtown Springfield. The region’s air quality is notoriously poor. Eastman spent billions in acquiring Solutia, so they should be able clean up its old, dirty power plant”.

“The Solutia manufacturing plant doesn’t have to burn coal to generate heat and power,” concluded Attorney Bitov, noting that the plant also has two infrequently used gas and oil burners, which operate more cleanly than coal. “It is possible for Solutia to significantly reduce emissions by upgrading its existing facility equipment to burn natural gas exclusively. We look forward to working with the company, as well as DEP, to quickly resolve these outstanding issues.”

Partnership for Policy Integrity