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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Air Quality Fight at LAX Heats Up

Air Quality Fight at LAX Heats Up

By RiSHAWN BIDDLE

Staff Reporter

An eight-month dispute over the installation of an emissions reduction system at Los Angeles International Airport escalated last week when the contractor, EmeraChem LLC, filed counterclaims against Los Angeles World Airports, the quasi-government agency that runs LAX and several other local airports.

In papers filed May 21 in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company demanded that the City of Los Angeles compensate it for unspecified damages related to its work on the system, which was installed at LAX’s Central Utilities power plant in June 2001.

Last September, the airport sued EmeraChem, claiming that its system, which is designed to use environmentally friendly catalysts instead of chemicals such as ammonia to cut back on emissions, didn’t work. The airport sought $3.1 million, claiming fraud and breach of faith.

In its complaint, the city says EmeraChem failed to reveal information it provided to the Southern California Air Quality Management District that the system couldn’t reduce pollutants as it had earlier promised.

Because of that, the city said it had to spend $741,000 on pollution credits in order to keep in compliance with mandatory emissions limits. It said it also lost $556,308 in potential revenues from selling electricity from the plant.

In its May 21 response, EmeraChem accused the city of not taking “all the reasonable and necessary steps” it could have to mitigate its damages.

EmeraChem, co-owned by L.A.-based power plant firm Sunlaw Energy Corp., said in the suit that it spent months diagnosing problems that resulted from the city’s “misuse” of its system. The city then refused to allow EmeraChem to fix the problems when its staff arrived at the power plant in July last year, the company said.

Further, the company accuses city officials of having “slandered and disparaged” it with negative statements to customers including the University of California, San Diego.

“The city of Los Angeles presented incorrect information to us and then blamed its failure on us,” said EmeraChem Chairman Thomas Girdlestone, who also accuses the city of replacing its system with “a potentially dangerous” alternative.

Retorts Deputy City Attorney Thomas Gutierrez: “They came to us remedying the problem because they acknowledged there were problems with the system. We gave them nine months to remedy the problem and they couldn’t do it.”

EmeraChem’s system is supposed to cut back on pollutants emitted from the plant by passing them through a catalyst. The alternative system that the city plans to install instead uses other means, including ammonia.

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