Thursday, March 06, 2008

Groups Say EPA Commits To Mercury Regs For Cement Kilns

Mar 5: According to a release from Earthjustice, the citizens group Desert Citizens Against Pollution, and Sierra Club, U.S. EPA announced in a recent court document its plans to regulate mercury pollution from over 100 cement kilns across the country by September 2009. The groups said the announcement marks a dramatic shift in EPA policy which, until now, had been to resist requiring mercury controls for cement kilns.

The release indicates that three times in the last ten years, Federal courts have ordered EPA to set emission standards to control cement kilns’ mercury emissions. Until now, EPA has ignored these orders or sought to evade them. EPA finally indicated that it would set mercury emission standards in papers filed on February 20, 2008 in a fourth case brought by Sierra Club, Downwinders at Risk (TX), Friends of Hudson (NY), Montanans Against Toxic Burning, Desert Citizens Against Pollution (CA) and the Huron Environmental Activist League (MI), and the States of New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The groups indicate that cement kilns pumped nearly 12,000 pounds of mercury into the air in 2006, according to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). However, they say TRI depends on voluntary emissions estimates that may significantly understate kilns’ actual pollution levels. Individual cement kilns in New York, Michigan and Oregon routinely understated their emissions until being required by State officials to conduct emissions tests -- at which point it became evident that their actual emissions were approximately ten times higher than previously reported. The Lafarge kiln in Ravena, New York previously reported mercury emissions of only 40 pounds. It now acknowledges emitting more than 400 pounds per year.

Bill Freese, Director of the Huron Environmental Activist League said, “Michigan is the home of the largest cement plant in North America. It is the Lafarge cement plant here in Alpena, which is also the largest emitter of mercury in the state. It became number one when the power plant in S.E. Michigan, emitting the most, installed stack scrubbers and pollution control equipment which reduced their emissions by 70%. Lafarge could have reduced their mercury emissions by 50% by discontinuing the use of the mercury laden Canadian fly ash. . .”

Marti Sinclair, Sierra Club’s National Air Committee Chair said, “It is a good thing Americans can hold their government accountable for breaking the law. The cement industry [has] far too much clout at EPA. If the Courts hadn’t put a stop to its scofflaw behavior, the agency would never have made this industry clean up.”

The groups released the Respondents Motion To Govern in the case of Portland Cement Association v. EPA, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 07-1046, consolidated with 07-1048, 07-1049, 07-1052; and a Declaration of Peter Tsirigotis, the Director of the Sector Policies and Programs Division of EPA, within EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, which develops virtually all standards implementing section 112 (d) (MACT of the Clean Air Act.

According to the Motion, " EPA anticipates that it will take until mid-September 2008, to analyze the data, determine floor levels for emission limitations, determine whether to proposed more stringent, beyond-the-floor emission limitations, and issue a proposed rule for public comment.

"After a proposed rule is issued, EPA estimates it will need nine to twelve additional months to receive and analyze comments and promulgate a final rule, although more time may be required depending upon the number and content of the comments it receives. . ."

Access the release (
click here). Access the Motion and Declaration (click here). Access additional information on Cement Kiln rules from Earthjustice (click here). [*Toxics, *Air]