Citizen Suit Prompts Settlement of Pulp Mill Pollution

Citizen Suit Prompts Settlement of Pulp Mill Pollution

For more information, please contact:
Patty Clary, CATs, 707-445-5100
Scott Greacen, EPIC, 707-476-8340

Eureka, CA — Citizen groups and California’s last remaining pulp mill today lodged a settlement with the federal court in San Francisco that will significantly reduce emission of fine airborne particles that have plagued Eureka and the surrounding Humboldt County community in recent years. The settlement was reached eighteen months after the groups initiated an enforcement action against the pulp mill and as trial was about to begin.

Noting that Evergreen Pulp, Inc.’s 43-year-old mill on the Samoa Peninsula across the bay from Eureka regularly discharged air pollution beyond the limits of its federal permit, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) then filed suit in federal court in January, 2006, to make the company install modern pollution-control equipment to comply with the federal Clean Air Act.

“The outcome we’ve reached today underscores the importance of citizen enforcement of the Clean Air Act,” said Patty Clary of CATs. “It’s what motivated Evergreen to clean up its smokestack and become a good neighbor.”

The terms of the agreement require Evergreen to install by September, 2008, a pollution-control device called a “Venturi scrubber” on the smelt dissolver tank. One of the pulp mill’s most polluting pieces of equipment, the smelt dissolver emits dangerous airborne particles small enough to lodge in the lung, heavy metals and toxic gasses.

In an earlier agreement with local air-quality regulators, Evergreen agreed to update pollution control for the lime kiln, which also discharges particulates, by installing an electrostatic precipitator.

Both pollution-control devices are considered to be “state of the art” by experts worldwide and should reduce overall emissions significantly at the pulp mill.

EPIC president Noah Levy welcomed the agreement, saying: “We’ll all breathe easier in Eureka and the Humboldt Bay area when the pulp mill modernizes its equipment. It’s great news for the pulp mill workers and for the community.”

Evergreen’s parent company, Lee and Man, bought the mill in 2005 to produce unbleached pulp for shipment to its paperboard mills in Asia.

Built in 1964 by Georgia-Pacific, the mill was converted to Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) bleached kraft processing by Louisiana-Pacific a decade ago. Then it passed through a series of owners. Pollution caused by years of deferred maintenance of pulp mill equipment spurred residents of Eureka neighborhoods to oppose variances to pollution limits requested by Evergreen and granted by local air-quality regulators. They convinced CATs and EPIC to seek protection under the Clean Air Act.

Representing CATs and EPIC in the citizen-enforcement action were Eureka-based William Verick of Klamath Environmental Law Center; Professor Helen Kang of the Golden Gate University School of Law, Environmental Law and Justice Clinic; Oakland-based environmental attorney Sharon Duggan; and Luke Cole of the Center On Race, Poverty and the Environment. Golden Gate University law students Jim Treggiari and Aaron Sandone contributed significantly to the action.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Elizabeth Eytchison of the community-based Citizens Pulp Mill Committee. “And we’ll keep an eye on Evergreen’s future performance.”

Eureka-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) has led many successful campaigns to reduce and eliminate the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals that affect the environment and health throughout the region in the twenty-five years of its existence. CATs achieves its mission by working with grassroots groups to build strategic responses to community problems, watch-dogging government and industry actions, publishing and disseminating information critical to participation in democratic processes and advocating for its members before government agencies and in court.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), based in Redway and Eureka, California, was formed by community activists more than 29 years ago, and works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries, and native species throughout Northwest California. EPIC uses an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

Established in 1994, Golden Gate University School of Law, Environmental Law & Justice Clinic is the only in-house law school clinic in California focusing on environmental justice. Working with three full-time faculty members, ELJC student clinicians directly represent environmental organizations and community groups in low-income and minority communities on real-life public health, toxics, and environmental justice matters.

The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment is a national environmental justice legal organization with offices in San Francisco and Delano, California. We provide legal and technical assistance to grassroots groups in low-income communities and communities of color fighting environmental hazards. In our work, we have three ambitions: First, that individuals taking part in a particular campaign leave the campaign with more personal capacity than they had coming into it; second, that the community involved has more power vis a vis decision makers at the end of the campaign that at the beginning, and, finally, to concretely address the environmental hazards at hand.

William Verick is a Eureka environmental lawyer whose window looks out on the Evergreen pulp mill. Sharon Duggan is the long-time staff attorney for the Environmental Protection Information Center, co-author of Guide to the Forest Practice Act and Related Laws: Regulation of Timber Harvesting on Private Lands in California and works near Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.