PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) – A Phenix City carbon black manufacturing plant is scheduled to close at the end of the year. There is now a city and state of Alabama effort to keep Continental Carbon’s plant open on State Docks Road open.
The company manufactures carbon black, a substance used to strengthen the rubber in car tires. It’s also used in plastics, ink, and coating applications.
Continental Carbon Inc. China Synthetic Rubber Corp. was the subject of a 2007 federal jury verdict. That jury awarded the City of Columbus, Action Marine, and a South Columbus resident $19.5 million dollars for damage as a result of emissions from the plant.
After the verdict, Continental Carbon entered into an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade facilities in Oklahoma, Texas, and Phenix City.
The company said upgrades to the Texas and Oklahoma facilities have been made to comply with the EPA consent order.
Early this year, Continental Carbon announced it would close the Phenix City plant that sits next to the Chattahoochee River. That closure was timed for December when Continental Carbon had to comply with the EPA order.
The original agreement with the EPA was signed in 2015, giving the company five years to comply. The agreement was extended to 2022. In those seven years, the company has not complied with the Clean Air Act.
The company said it would cost millions of dollars to upgrade the facility.
The city of Phenix City issued a statement to WRBL Thursday saying why it was working to keep the plant open. And it has to do with a changing market for carbon black.
The statement reads in part:
“Since that decision in early 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has transformed the landscape of the carbon black market. Russia has been the world’s third largest producer of carbon black … This has created a massive market deficit. Because of this, Continental Carbon’s leadership now sees an opportunity to continue their journey with the EPA and their pursuit to meet these additional standards.”
(FULL STATEMENT HERE)
In an effort to keep the plant open, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has stepped in. She sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the EPA. She is asking that they consider an extension to the current deadline for Continental Carbon to install new emission controls at the Phenix City plant.
In a letter to DOJ written in late July and obtained by WRBL, Ivey writes, in part:
“As Governor, preserving Alabama’s diverse and beautiful natural resources by way of protecting the environment is among my top priorities. So too is preserving the jobs of hardworking Alabamians whose families rely on responsible employers. If approved, Continental Carbon’s proposal to keep its Phenix City plant operating while expeditiously investing in and installing new emission controls would fulfill both of these priorities, and it is my hope that it would exceed your expectations.”
WRBL has reached out to Continental Carbon and Gov. Ivey’s Office for comment. We are awaiting a response.