Formosa Plastics Corp. USA plans to add 375 million pounds of PVC resin capacity at its plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
The Livingston, N.J.-based firm also has agreed to a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency under which Formosa will pay $450,000 in fines and spend $840,000 to install emission reduction equipment at its PVC resin plant in Delaware City, Del. The fines are for alleged emissions of PVC feedstock vinyl chloride monomer.
Chih-Tsuen Lee, president of Formosa USA parent Formosa Plastics Corp. of Taipei, Taiwan, discussed the Texas expansion in a recent interview with the Commercial Times newspaper of Taipei.
The paper quoted Lee on June 27 as saying the expansion would cost $200 million and could start mass production by mid-2007. Formosa USA already operates annual capacity of 1.6 billion pounds of PVC in Point Comfort.
Formosa USA spokesman Rob Thibault said the information in the Commercial Times story was accurate, but he declined to add further detail. Industry sources said Formosa has yet to begin the permitting process for the proposed expansion.
Regarding the Delaware City fine, Thibault said Formosa USA ``doesn't agree with all of the issues raised'' in the June 28 EPA consent decree but agreed to settle ``quickly and amicably'' to avoid costly litigation.
In a prepared statement, U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly said that ``all evidence indicates that [VCM] is a substance meriting significant concern and, through this agreement, the citizens of Delaware will be exposed to less of it.''
Formosa does not produce VCM in Delaware City, but brings it in from other locations to produce PVC. Thibault added that the EPA fined Formosa even though the plant's 1,000 parts per million VCM emission rate was under both the 1,250-part state limit and 2,000-part federal limit.
EPA also fined Formosa for late reporting of emissions, although Thibault said one emission was reported 17 minutes after it occurred and another was reported 19 minutes after it occurred. EPA's reporting limit is 15 minutes.
Formosa also was fined for a single instance when phenol was discovered in a waste-water sample, even though that material is not used or stored at the plant, Thibault added.
According to Thibault, the EPA action was similar to action the agency took against Occidental Chemical Corp. in 2004. In that action, Dallas-based OxyChem was fined $150,000 and agreed to cut VCM emissions by almost 40 percent at a PVC plant in Pottstown, Pa. OxyChem closed the 220-employee Pottstown plant in January, citing poor profitability and foreign competition.