NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The 5th Circuit gave Alcoa Inc. more time to build an aluminum power plant in central Texas, after the government and three citizen groups complained that the company failed to comply with Clean Air Act regulations on pollution and emissions.
Plant operator Alcoa came under fire for allegedly violating environmental law during its process of generating electricity to run its aluminum plant. Lawsuits filed by the U.S. government and a coalition of Neighbors for Neighbors, Environmental Defense and Public Citizen resulted in a consent decree regulating construction of the new plant.
After construction delays placed Alcoa in violation of the consent decree’s deadline for new unit operation, Alcoa negotiated a two-and-a-half year extension, secured with a district court’s order. The citizen groups objected to the order, complaining that it modified the consent decree.
The 5th Circuit held that the order – which extended the operation deadline, but also imposed stricter pollution controls – was an appropriate remedy. It required stiffer emissions limits, earlier shutdown of the existing plant and installation of a system to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions. These measures, along with $1.8 million in penalties, did not reward Alcoa’s failure to meet the deadline, as the plaintiffs claimed, the court ruled.