LOS ANGELES (CN) - Multinational oil and gas giant Halliburton will pay $400,000 and help fund air filtration systems in three LA Unified schools to settle claims it operated a fleet of diesel trucks in violation of the Clean Air Act.
An unsigned and undated consent agreement obtained by Courthouse News states that Halliburton Energy Services agreed to pay a $154,400 civil fine and contribute $180,600 to a school air filtration system. It will pay an additional $75,000 to help improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.
"Transport companies must comply with California's rule to cut the pollutants that lead to higher asthma rates for children and more emergency room visits for heart and lung illnesses," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official Alexis Strauss said in a prepared statement on Thursday.
Halliburton spokeswoman Emily Mir confirmed that energy company had entered into a consent agreement and final order with the EPA and believes the projects will improve air quality.
"Halliburton is committed to compliant and sustainable operations. As of January 2015, all regulated vehicles operating in Halliburton's California fleet are compliant with the state's truck and bus regulation," Mir wrote in an email.
The agreement says that the Houston-based energy company operated a fleet of diesel trucks without filters that reduce particulate matter pollution from 2012 to 2014, and hired 13 major motor carriers without confirming their compliance with truck and bus regulations.
Part of the federal Clean Air Act, the California truck and bus regulation requires heavy-duty diesel trucks to comply with 2010 regulations on pollution or include diesel particulate filters which reduce particulate matter pollution by at least 85 percent, the EPA says.
On Thursday morning, EPA, state and local officials announced the settlement of the enforcement action at the Van Deene Elementary School in Torrance. They said the new filtration system at the school would eliminate 90 percent of ultrafine particulate matter and black carbon from classrooms.
Along with the elderly, children are most at risk from particulate matter, or PM, pollution. When inhaled, the minuscule particles - which measure less than 10 micrometers in diameter - can lead to lung and heart disease including heart attacks, asthma, and respiratory problems.
In a statement, the EPA said the Halliburton-funded projects would reduce air pollution at two other schools in Gardena, 186th Street Elementary School and Riley High School.
According to the EPA, studies show that improved air quality in classrooms boosts productivity, performance and attendance.
Halliburton has also agreed to provide schools in the San Joaquin Valley with hourly real-time data and educational outreach to reduce student exposure to dirty air under the Healthy Air Living Schools program. Under the consent agreement, it will pay $75,000 to support the program.
Van Deene Elementary is about one block away from the busy 110 freeway.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District board executed a contract with IQAir to install the ozone-free systems and will implement the project. Halliburton will provide five years of filters.
"Studies have shown many adverse health effects are associated with exposure to vehicle emissions near busy roadways, especially diesel exhaust particulate emissions that are classified as a human carcinogen. In addition, children are more susceptible to air pollution. These classroom air filters will help protect students' health," said air quality district executive Wayne Nastri.
If Halliburton fails to pay the $180,600 within 60 calendar days it faces a $1,000 per day stipulated penalty, the consent agreement states.
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