Tuesday, August 10, 2010

EPA Finalizes Air Rules For Portland Cement Manufacturing

Aug 9: U.S.EPA is issuing final rules which it says will protect Americans' health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing -- the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. EPA said the rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage children's 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.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "Americans throughout the country are suffering from the effects of pollutants in our air, especially our children who are more vulnerable to these chemicals. 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."

    The action sets the nation's first limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, strengthens 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 as follows: Mercury – 16,600 pounds or 92 percent; Total hydrocarbons – 10,600 tons or 83 percent; Particulate Matter – 11,500 tons or 92 percent; Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5,800 tons or 97 percent; Sulfur dioxide (SO2) – 110,000 tons or 78 percent; and Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6,600 tons or 5 percent.

    Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the populations of greatest concern. EPA estimates that the rules will yield $6.7 billion to $18 billion in health and environmental benefits, with costs estimated at $926 million to $950 million annually in 2013. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be $350 million annually. The rules will become effective 60-days following publication in the Federal Register.
    On August 5, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) wrote to Administrator Jackson saying its members were "concerned that the final rule has not taken full advantage of a robust inter-agency process in producing the final rule." For example, PCA said, ".  . .the failure of the rule to consider fully subcategorization within the sector is likely to produce substantial cost to the industry and to hamper its international competitiveness without correlated environmental benefits. . . The rule will impact the cost of cement, creating an additional burden on public infrastructure development. . . Should EPA finalize this $4.7 billion rule without a truly complete inter-agency review, the result will provide uncertain environmental benefits while undermining the Administration's goal to get the economy back on track."
    Environmental organizations hailed the new rules. Earthjustice attorney James Pew said, "For years, the cement industry has gotten a free pass to pollute our air and water. Previous administrations ignored the law and turned a blind eye towards the cost of pollution on our health and environment. Under Lisa Jackson, the EPA has taken the necessary steps to finally curtail some of the biggest polluters and clean up our air and water. Today's announcement will save lives and prevent suffering from cement kiln pollution's devastating health effects for thousands of Americans." Bill Freese, Director for Huron Environmental Activist League said, "We've been living with the pollution from the Lafarge Cement plant in Alpena for decades. Cleaning up toxic air pollution from this cement plant and dozens more just like it across the country will mean cleaner air, fewer hospital visits, and better living for all."
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a prepublication copy of the final rules (click here). Access a fact sheet on the rules (click here). Access related information and background on the PCA rules (click here). Access the complete letter from PCA (click here). Access a lengthy release from Earthjustice and link to more information (click here).