New EPA Rules

New National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollution from Cement Plants

During the Bush years the EPA was neither encouraged to establish tougher standards nor aggressively enforce pollution laws for many industries such as the cement industry.  The Sierra Club and the National Lime Association filed a lawsuit against the EPA to mandate that Toxic Pollutants for cement plants be properly regulated as are other industries as part of the Clean Air Act.  On December 15, 2000 the court ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and National Lime Association (NESHAP: Portland Cement Notice of Reconsideration and NSPS for Portland Cement) requiring the EPA to establish toxic and particulate limits for Portland cement manufacturing.  (See Proposed Amendments To National Air Toxics Emission Standards For Portland Cement Manufacturing Fact Sheet from EarthJustice.)

At long last, on April 21, 2009, the EPA announced its proposal amendment to the Clean Air Act for toxic emission standards for Portland cement manufacturing (EPA’s proposed amendment Fact Sheet).  On August 9th, 2010 EPA announced its new standards for the amendment to the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollution (“NESHAP”) for Portland cement manufacturing for mercury, total hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid and particulate matter from both new and existing cement kilns (see EPA Regulation) to take effect on August 9, 2013.

Pressures from the cement industry resulted in the loosening of these proposed standards (see comparison below) prior to its announcement, but in spite of these somewhat looser standards the overall effect was to reduce regulated toxic pollutants by about 80-90%.  This is a major victory for all who live near cement plants.  The rules will take effect in 3 years saving lives and improving the health of residents in the Cupertino area.  Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant will be forced to reduce their 550lbs (arguably 1,248 lbs) of mercury annually to a maximum of about 88 lbs per year, an 85% reduction.  Had the original proposed rules been used mercury would have been limited to 69 lbs per year.

Not out of the woods yet

However the Portland Cement Association is currently suing to modify portions of the rule.  In addition House Republicans (House defeats EPA mercury requirement that would affect cement companies) have passed an amendment to suspend EPA funding for implementation and enforcement of the new rules.  So things are not yet settled.  However there is more light at the end of the tunnel than not.

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Comparison between Proposed and Final Toxic Pollution Limits [Lehigh cannot produce more than 1.6 million tons of clinker per year]

Proposed Limits

Final Limits

 Pollutant

Existing Source Kilns New Source Kilns Existing Source Kilns New Source Kilns
Mercury 43 pounds per million tons of clinker produced, averaged over 30 days

[Lehigh limit 69 lbs/yr]

14 pounds per million tons of clinker, averaged over 30 days

[Lehigh limit 22.4 lbs/yr]

55 pounds per million tons of clinker, averaged over 30 days

[Lehigh limit 88 lbs/yr]

21pounds per million tons of clinker, averaged over 30 days

[Lehigh limit 34 lbs/yr]

Total Hydrocarbons 7 parts per million by volume (ppmv) for all kilns, averaged over 30 days 6 ppmv for all kilns, averaged over 30days 24 parts per million by volume (ppmv), averaged over 30 days 24 ppmv, averaged over 30 days
Particulate Matter (as a surrogate for toxic metals other than mercury) 0.085 pounds per ton of clinker 0.080 pounds per ton of clinker 0.04 pounds per ton of clinker, averaged over 30 days 0.01 pounds per ton of clinker, averaged over 30 days
Hydrochloric acid (major sources only) 2 ppmv, averaged over 30 days 0.1 ppmv, averaged over 30 days 3 ppmv, averaged over 30 days 3 ppmv, averaged over 30 days

Note: Lehigh’s license limits production to 1.6 million tons of clinker/year maximum

Some News Articles and References:

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