DES MOINES, Iowa -- Cargill Inc. will spend about $130 million to upgrade pollution control devices at 27 corn and oilseed plants in the Midwest to settle a clean air lawsuit, federal officials said Thursday.
Under the settlement, the food and agricultural products company has also agreed to pay $1.6 million in civil penalties and spend another $3.5 million on other environmental projects around the country.
"Today's settlement is positive proof of the continued progress we are achieving in the grain industry, through the cooperative enforcement efforts of federal, state and local agencies," said Kelly Johnson, an acting assistant attorney general with the Justice Department.
Cargill spokesman Bill Brady said the company had been negotiating the settlement for years after voluntarily disclosing the environmental problems.
"This is a problem that was discovered and self-disclosed by the corn-milling industry," he said.
The government had filed a lawsuit in Minnesota alleging that Cargill had significantly underestimated emissions from its operations in 13 states. The agreement announced Thursday will result in a reduction of about 30,000 tons of pollution a year, officials said.
"Cargill is following others in this industry by installing the appropriate controls and greatly reducing its air emissions, resulting in cleaner, healthier air," said Granta Nakayama, an enforcement administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The suit filed against Cargill had alleged that the company's corn processing plants were significant sources of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. Ten states and four counties had joined in the federal action against the company.
They included Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, as well as Shelby County in Tennessee, Montgomery County, Ohio, and Linn and Polk counties in Iowa.
The federal government had issued notices of violation against two oilseed plants in 2002 and nine corn mill plants in 2003. Civil penalties and environmental project money generated by the settlement will be shared by the states and counties involved in the lawsuit.
Prosecutors said the settlement will lead to broad environmental improvements at all of Cargill's processing plants, and said 81 percent of the nation's ethanol production facilities are now under settlement agreements.
That should significantly improve the environmental quality of production of the alternative fuel, officials said.
The environmental program Cargill has agreed to fund include a diesel retrofit program in Tennessee, as well as wetlands restoration efforts in Iowa and Nebraska.
On the Net:
Cargill Inc.: http://www.cargill.com/