The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that CalPortland Company (CPC), a major producer of Portland cement and building materials in the United States, has agreed to pay a $1.425 million penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its cement plant in Mojave, Calif. In addition to the penalty, CPC will spend an estimated $1.3 million on pollution controls that will reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), pollutants that can lead to childhood asthma and smog.

The $1.425 million penalty is one of the largest settlements for a single cement facility. The plant is located in Kern County, Calif., which has some of the worst air pollution in the country, according to the EPA.??The government’s complaint alleges that CPC made significant modifications to its plant, resulting in increased emissions of NOx, SO2 and carbon monoxide, without first obtaining a Clean Air Act-required permit and without installing necessary pollution control equipment. Major sources of air pollution are required to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.

According to the EPA, the settlement ensures that the proper equipment, estimated to cost $1.3 million to install and $500,000 per year to operate, will be installed to reduce future emission levels. These measures are expected to reduce pollution each year from the plant by at least 1,200 tons of NOx and 360 tons of sulfur dioxide SO2.

The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.

“This settlement will bring state-of-the-art controls to a major source of air pollution and secures significant reductions in harmful pollutants,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, in a prepared statement. “The Mojave plant is one of the largest emitters of nitrogen oxide pollution in California. As a result of the Clean Air Act compliance requirements in the consent decree, residents in the surrounding region will enjoy cleaner and healthier air.”

Since 2005, EPA has been focusing on improving compliance with the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act among industries that have the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution, including the cement manufacturing industry.

EPA says it is continuing its commitment to reducing air pollution from cement plants by making it one of the National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013.