Michigan-based Guardian to spend $70M to cut pollution

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Michigan-based Guardian Industries Corp. on Monday agreed to spend more than $70 million to reduce emissions from producing glass for automobile windshields and office and home windows — and will pay a fine of $300,000, federal regulators said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department disclosed the settlement over alleged pollution that violated the Clean Air Act at Guardian’s flat glass manufacturing facilities throughout the United States.

Under the proposed settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, privately held Auburn Hills-based Guardian will invest more than $70 million to control emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist from all of its flat glass manufacturing facilities.

Guardian will also fund an environmental mitigation project valued at $150,000 to reduce particulate matter pollution in the San Joaquin Valley in California and pay a civil penalty of $312,000, EPA said. Guardian didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Kevin Baird, president, Guardian Glass, said in a statement the company was pleased to resolve the investigation. “Guardian was proactive by initiating discussions with the EPA, and this consent decree ensures compliance at our float glass manufacturing facilities through best available control technologies, while providing reasonable operational flexibility,” Baird said.

He said the company already has started upgrading facilities.

Guardian’s flat glass manufacturing plants are in Carleton, Michigan; Kingsburg, California; DeWitt, Iowa; Geneva, NewYork; Floreffe, Pennsylvania.; Richburg, South Carolina; and Corsicana, Texas.

“Air pollution from flat glass facilities can impact communities hundreds of miles away, which is why today’s announcement is so crucial to address pollution at the source and protect public health,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By investing in pollution control equipment and funding a mitigation project that will protect the health of low-income residents, Guardian is setting an example for the flat glass industry for how to control harmful air emissions at its facilities.”

“We applaud Guardian Industries, who today became an industry leader by committing to a substantial investment to reduce emissions of air pollutants that are harmful to human lungs,” said Barbara L. McQuade, the U.S. attorney in Detroit. “This agreement strikes the appropriate balance between promoting manufacturing and protecting the clean air that is essential to public health and Michigan’s future.”

EPA said Guardian violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control plans when it made major modifications to its furnaces that significantly increased harmful air emissions.

The $150,000 mitigation project with the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District will provide incentives to low-income residents living in the San Joaquin Valley to replace or retrofit inefficient, higher-polluting wood-burning appliances with cleaner-burning, more energy-efficient appliances. The San Joaquin Valley has poor air quality.

EPA expects that the pollution controls required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by 7,300 tons per year, including approximately 6,400 tons per year of nitrogen oxide. The pollutants contribute to acid rain, smog, and haze.

The states of Iowa and New York actively participated in the settlement and will each receive $78,000 of the total penalty. The United States will receive $156,000. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also actively participated in the settlement.

“New Yorkers’ health, environment, and economy depend on clean air,” said New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “This settlement will ensure that the Guardian facility in Geneva operates in full compliance with air pollution laws. It will also significantly cut emissions from the facility, providing a breath of fresh air to New Yorkers living in the Finger Lakes region.”