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Epa Sets Limits On Toxic Emissions From Cement Plants


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rules on emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rules on emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States.

EPA says the rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage childrenís developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

"Americans throughout the country are suffering from the effects of pollutants in our air, especially our children who are more vulnerable to these chemicals," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "This administration is committed to reducing pollution that is hurting the health of our communities. With this historic step, we are going a long way in accomplishing that goal. By reducing harmful pollutants in the air we breathe, we cut the risk of asthma attacks and save lives."
This action sets the nationís first limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, tightening the limits for new kilns, and sets emission limits that will reduce acid gases. This final action also limits particle pollution from new and existing kilns, and sets new-kiln limits for particle and smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates the annual emissions will be reduced:

  • Mercury ñ 16,600 pounds or 92%
  • Total hydrocarbons ñ 10,600 tons or 83%
  • Particulate Matter ñ 11,500 tons or 92%
  • Acid gases ñ (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5,800 tons or 97%
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)ñ 110,000 tons or 78%
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) ñ 6,600 tons or 5%

The Portland Cement Association is no fan of the new rule.

ìThe Final Rule issued today by EPA on amendments to the national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP) from the portland cement manufacturing industry will require portland cement facilities to limit emissions of mercury, total hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid and particulate matter," PCA said in an issued statement. "The emission limits are still very low and will not be achievable by a number of facilities.

ìCompliance with the rule will cost the industry several billion dollars, and require investments in pollution control equipment at a time when available capital is considerably constrained due to the state of the economy. Moreover, the large number of other regulatory requirements anticipated to affect the industry over the coming years complicates acquiring and installing the necessary emission controls for this rule. This could lead to additional cement plant closures, job losses and a reduction in U.S. cement production capacity.

ìMore cement will need to be imported to make up for shrinking domestic supply. We fear this could constrain the U.S. governmentís efforts to stimulate the economy, create jobs and rehabilitate the nationís infrastructure. Additionally, imports of cement, mostly likely from developing nations, will cause global increases of greenhouse gas, mercury and other pollutant emissions.

ìPCA is thoroughly reviewing the new regulations to assess their ultimate impact on the industry and its planned growth.

ìPCA believes that there are approaches that EPA could have pursued, such as creating emission standards for subcategories of industry facilities and using risk-based policy approaches to address hydrochloric acid (HCl), rather than imposing an HCl emission standard for the purpose of limiting sulfur dioxide emissions. These approaches would have achieved the environmental objectives of the Clean Air Act, while also preserving U.S. cement production capacity.

ìFor more than a decade, PCA has supported the rising demand for portland cement through environmentally and socially responsible business practices. PCA and its member companies are continually working to identify innovative ways to improve plant operations and implement state-of-the-art technologies to minimize emissions, promote a safe workplace, improve energy efficiency and conserve natural resources while cost-effectively producing a high-quality product.î