Environmentalists protest permit for cement plant

Friday, August 29, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Four environmental groups have filed a state lawsuit appealing a 100-year quarry permit that would allow a Swiss company to mine limestone in Ste. Genevieve County, part of a project to build the nation's largest cement plant at the site.

The four groups claim Holcim Inc. would destroy 1,600 acres of forest and create air pollution in the St. Louis area. Holcim claims the plant would be built in "an environmentally sound manner."

Yvonne Homeyer, president of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society, said Holcim's mining would obliterate hillsides and the extensive watershed in the area, which is home to the endangered Indian Bat.

Seeks nature preserve

"This area should be designated as a nature preserve instead of being blown to bits by explosives," Homeyer said.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the American Bottom Conservancy and the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club are the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Wednesday, which challenges a permit issued last month to Holcim by the Missouri Land Reclamation Commission.

The same groups filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month against Holcim and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which authorized the construction of the plant.

"This litigation seems to be another attempt to delay and prevent Holcim's efforts to bring hundreds of good-paying jobs and economic development to this region in an environmentally sound manner," said Holcim spokeswoman Nancy Tully.

Tully said Holcim plans to plant native vegetation, recreate streams and install ponds once the project is complete. She said Holcim will also have a 2,200-acre buffer zone surrounding the plant and quarry.

Tully said Thursday the company had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on specifics. She said the permit was granted after Holcim "introduced significant scientific evidence proving that the quarry will not adversely affect the safety or livelihood of any of our neighbors."

Holcim officials have said the $600 million plant would provide about 200 permanent jobs.

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