The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleges that Tate & Lyle made major modifications at two mills in Illinois and Indiana that significantly increased emissions of volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, or both, without getting permits requiring emission controls.
The alleged violations were discovered during an EPA inspection of the Lafayette mill and from subsequent information requests.
"EPA's mission is to protect public health and the environment," said regional administrator Thomas Skinner. "We will take whatever steps are needed to ensure compliance with the Clean Air Act."
The allegations could be seen as a set-back for Tate & Lyle in its efforts to become a leading environmentally-friendly business. The company will certainly be hoping that the EPAs' case will not overshadow its recently announced plans to build a new $100 million bio-based energy plant.
DuPont and Tate & Lyle have formed a joint venture to build the plant, which will use corn to replace petrochemical-based products.
"We think the time for corn is now and that we are ideally placed to bring this new bio-based material to market," said Tate & Lyle chief executive Iain Ferguson.
"The corn fields of today will be the oilfields of the future and we believe that our joint venture, due on stream next calendar year, is well matched to meet the demands of the current climate."
The company claims that production of bio-propanediol (PDO) consumes 30 to 40 percent less energy than petroleum-based PDO (on a per pound basis). Production of 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO in the Loudon plant will save the equivalent of 10 million gallons of gasoline per year.
In any case, the EPA says that these are just the preliminary findings of violations. To resolve them, EPA may issue a compliance order, assess an administrative penalty or bring suit against the company.
Tate & Lyle has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.
Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone or smog. Smog is formed when a mixture of air pollutants is baked in the hot summer sun.
Smog can cause a variety of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. People with asthma, children and the elderly are especially at risk, but these health concerns are important to everyone.