Holcim gets last major permit for cement plant near Ste. Gen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- A plan to build one of the largest cement plants in the world took a step forward Tuesday, when Missouri issued the last major permit to allow construction of Holcim's proposed $600 million cement plant.

Holcim Inc. wants to build the plant near the Mississippi River in northern Ste. Genevieve County. The company said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' newly issued air pollution control permit does not mean the project can immediately move ahead. Holcim, whose parent company is based in Switzerland, is involved in ongoing litigation with environmental groups over the project.

Environmentalists argue it would cause pollution, destroy wetlands and threaten the region's compliance with federal clean air standards.

"We've been concerned about the entire facility from the start," said Carla Klein, director of the Ozark chapter of the Sierra Club, one of four groups pursuing court action because they oppose two other permits that already had been issued.

Supporters say the plant would boost the economy and bring jobs.

Holcim spokeswoman Nancy Tully said the company has worked to plan an environmentally efficient plant.

"We anticipate successful litigation completion, and the start of this project by this time next year," she said.

Klein said the Sierra Club needed to take a closer look at the air pollution control permit to say what measures were, or were not, included in the final permit.

Environmentalists previously have argued that the plant would emit thousands of tons of pollutants into the air each year, even with environmental controls. Some were especially concerned that the plant would be one of the area's major nitrogen oxide polluters, adding to ozone problems.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said in a statement that it "has made every effort to ensure the conditions placed in the permit are protective of public health."

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