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Bill would cut back new emission regulations on cement manufacturers

Monday, October 31, 2011

(Photo)
Buzzi Unicem sits in south Cape Girardeau with the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge in the background June 13, 2010. New EPA regulations wouldn't affect the company's Cape Girardeau plant but could affect its plant in Festus, Mo.
(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
A bill making its way through Congress would roll back new EPA regulations on cement manufacturers to preserve jobs and help companies avoid expensive equipment upgrades to control emissions.

House Resolution 2681, known as the Cement Sector Regulatory Act, recently passed the House of Representatives. The measure requires the EPA administrator to develop more realistic and achievable regulations within 15 months, supporters say.

In September 2010, the EPA published new performance standards for cement kilns, and last March, it published two additional rules.

Because it uses cleaner-burning hazardous waste in addition to coal, the cement kiln at Buzzi Unicem in Cape Girardeau is not subject to the regulations targeted by the legislation.

"They won't affect us right now, but it's only a matter of time before they amend our regulations and make them more stringent," said Paul Schell, environmental engineer at Buzzi Unicem. "It will have a trickle-down effect eventually."

Buzzi Unicem's Festus, Mo., plant will be affected if the new regulations are imposed because its primary fuel is petroleum.

"It will affect us companywide," Schell said. "With the recent downturn in the economy, we've already closed one plant and idled others. Buzzi Unicem has about eight plants in the U.S. that are currently operating. One other plant we have in Greencastle, Ind., is burning waste fuel also. The rest of them will be affected by these new regulations."

Stricter standards come at a time when cement production in the U.S. has already slowed as a result of the recent recession and sluggish construction industry.

Schell said the Cape Girardeau plant's production is 80 to 90 percent of what it was before the economic downturn. About 175 people work at the Cape Girardeau facility.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican who voted for House Resolution 2681, said the regulatory reach of the EPA has gone far beyond what is reasonable and will damage the national manufacturing economy.

"Six U.S. plants would be forced to spend in excess of $100 million each on compliance with the new regulation. It doesn't take much thought to figure out that the management of these plants would rather shut down or idle their facility rather than spend that kind of money," she said. "Overseas companies looking to do business in the U.S. would think twice before locating their operations here."

Schell criticized the methods used by the EPA to set the new standards.

"The way the EPA has gone about coming up with these limits. They've looked at the best performing, cleanest cement plants in the country on a pollutant by pollutant basis and set the limit based on that," he said. "They've passed limits that not a single cement plant in the U.S. can comply with all of the emissions standards simultaneously."

One cement kiln might be able to meet sulfur dioxide limits but not the nitrogen oxide limits, while another might be able to meet the particulate matter limits but not the mercury limits, Schell said.

"Every single cement plant in the U.S. is looking at installing costly control devices to control some type of pollutant. On some of the older plants, it may not even be worth putting that much money into a plant and they would just shut it down," he said.

The EPA itself estimates the Cement Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rule alone will cost $2.2 billion to implement.

Emerson accused the EPA of "runaway regulation" at the expense of jobs and prosperity in rural communities.

"I'm very glad the House of Representatives is providing a counterargument to this kind of runaway regulation and I hope members of our U.S. Senate take up these measures with the same enthusiasm for limiting government reach and helping our economy," she said.

The bill is awaiting Senate action. The Obama administration strongly opposes HR 2681, which it says would undermine public health protection under the Clean Air Act.

mmiller@semissourian.com

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If you don't think that pollution can be cut and a business stay in business, take a look at these photos of the cement plant taken in 1966 and today.

http://www.capecentralhigh.com/cape-phot...

In 1966, a company official said they hoped to reduce the pollution by about half, but that was "about the best result that could reasonably be expected."

You can tell from the photos that they did MUCH better than that.

-- Posted by ksteinhoff on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 2:19 AM

Looks like Ms. Emerson-Gladney is putting politics before the health of her constituents. Cement kilns burn all manner of hazardous materials including low level radioactive material. I urge her to vote against further regulation of this almost unregulated industry but only after she climbs a cement kiln's smoke stack and takes a very deep breath!

-- Posted by tkruzen@gmail.com on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 2:52 PM

Ms. Emerson needs to start thinking about her consituents health and stop these cement kiln's from putting people's health at risk which will end up costing us so much more than any of these cement kiln's are going to invest. Right now in Ms. Emerson's SE territory we have failing air quality and this most definitely needs to be cleaned up. These plants also produce large amounts of dioxin, very carcenigenic, harmful to the environment, and very deadly to the public. She needs to rethink her economic policies and start thinking about the people whom live in these areas. We pay your salary and the large corporations contribute to campaign funds. People should be your first choice and by the way there are plenty of corporations that you can bring to Missouri that don't pollute to the access that these companies do. Save our living conditions, it's the only way we, our children and our grand children will survive, leave them something instead of just living in the present. Your way of thinking is really messed up and so very inconsiderate of the people that voted you into office. Maybe you should retire if you can't think about the whole picture. Remember the more you pollute the more the farmers have to put lime all over there fields to tone the acidity caused by the pollution, we are now a grape vineyard state with more cropping up everyday and the pollution over time will not only change the soils acidity but will change the taste of the grapes and will actually put these people out of business, and last but not the least of the pollution caused by these plants and others like them the health risk are numeral and the children and elderly will quite frankly pay with there health even causing children whom live in or around the surrounding areas with respirtory illnesses and in some death attributed by the pollution. When mercury comes out a smoke stack, it can travel for up to 10 miles through the air meaning you can inhale it, which mercury poisoning is a terrbile way to go, or you can injest it through the food produced around these areas to the water drink. It also gets into the creeks and streams, which it then turns to methenol mercury and gets into fish, people fish in those streans and eating a fish can be very hazardous to your health so tourism is at stake too. Think before you decide because the people as watching and they are not happy with any of you in this state and elsewhere. Do the right thing for a change vote to clean up these messes instead of sentencing your constituents to health issues and in a lot of cases even death. Stop corporate greed most don't pay there fair share right now, vote to clean up a mess that should not of been allowed to start up in the first place.

-- Posted by veryconcernedwoman on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 4:13 PM

Veryconcernedwoman - you need to have another glass of wine and calm down.

Cement plants have been in existence in the United States since the late 1800's. The emissions from these plants are much cleaner now than ever before.

If you shutdown every cement plant in the US, cement will have to be imported in from countries with much less restrictive emission standards than the US. Mostly from the Asian countries. Don't think their emissions aren't carried over with the westerly winds. Just look at the radiation carried over this year after the Fukushima Nuclear accident following the earthquake.

-- Posted by Ski2Trout on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 4:42 PM

Hmmm, no mention of the new state-of-the-art plant recently opened at Ste. Genevieve - Holcim? How are they faring in all this?

Electrostatic precipitators are capable of removing 96-99% of particulate matter from the flue gas.

Mercury concentrations are difficult to measure, being not in parts-per-million, or parts-per-billion, but parts-per-trillion. One analogy was filling the Houston Astrodome (yes, it's an old analogy) with white ping pong balls, and worrying about the removal of the three black ones. Mercury removal techniques are still being refined for commercial scale projects.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) destroys protective ozone and are a result of high firing temperatures. Some burner modifications are possible to lower the peak temperatures, but failing that - expensive scrubbers known as selective catalytic or selective non-catalytic reduction must be installed at a cost in the tens or hundreds of millions, just to reduce the amount of one pollutant.

Sulfur dioxides cause acid rain and are generally a result of the sulfur content of the fuel being used. Using low-sulfur fuel, such as Western / Wyoming coal instead of Eastern US coal used to be able to meet requirements at the expense of learning how to burn fuel that's a small step above dirt, and resulting in paying twice as much for freight as for the fuel. Increasing regulations are now requiring many who paid to convert to low-sulfur fuels to now pay for a sulfur scrubber anyways, which generates another waste product sometimes recycled into drywall products.

One challenge with these regulations is that they always seem to be changing - coincidentally or not, in step with the ability of instrumentation to measure lower quantities. If companies were given a 'heads up' on just where these regulations were ultimately going, suggest many would have made different and overall more economical decisions on their path forward.

Further suggest for many companies, prior decisions to install emission control equipment in the past and are now faced with installing additional equipment can be viewed as not necessarily a bad decision, but a good decision then that has turned out bad now - because the rules of the game keep changing.

Again, the question arises, "just how much clean air can we afford?".

-- Posted by fxpwt on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 5:20 PM

These plants should not be aerial landfills for hazardous waste.No one is saying not make cement. I bet the Romans didn't use low-level rad waste in their kilns. So many contaminants are cumulative over time and in human and other living systems. Parts per anything are harmful if you burn rad waste. The air belongs to us all-not to any industry and it is imperative we all protect it as good as we can. There is no "right to pollute" There is a right to LIFE guaranteed by the Constitution and that implies we should have air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Anything less is tyranny and is the furthest from freedom. If I dropped a few parts per million mercury or lead in your water and I were caught, I would be prosecuted for attempted murder by poison. Why should it be different for a corporation?

-- Posted by tkruzen@gmail.com on Mon, Oct 31, 2011, at 10:39 PM

Dear ski2trout you need to educate yourself maybe then you'd have an opinion worth writing about.

Dear fxpwt we are including Holcim in this they have caused the Perry Country Area to have a failing air quality since they started up.

Dear tkruzen I loved your analogy on the private sector compared to what the corporate sector gets away with and it does boil down to murder. Ms Emerson should have to account for her nonchalant attitude to our living conditions and how they are worsening every day. She should be ashamed of the legislation she's passed all for the almighty buck without a thought to the communities theirselves and surrounding areas. What a travesty of justice?

-- Posted by veryconcernedwoman on Tue, Nov 1, 2011, at 4:59 PM

The solution to pollution is dilution.

If you were to drop a few parts per million mercury into my water, that would be about one million times the concentration of the few parts per trillion emissions targeted for regulation.

Going with the idea that drinking one beer does little harm, but the damage of one million beers is irreparable - where is the acceptable medium?

If burning this waste is unacceptable, what are the alternatives - and what do they cost? After all, if money were of no relevance, much of this argument goes away.

-- Posted by fxpwt on Tue, Nov 1, 2011, at 5:16 PM

veryconcernedwoman - did you know that cement plants that are permitted to burn hazardous waste fuels fall under stricter emmissions limits than cement plants that burn fossil fuels. These RCRA (Resource Conservation Recovery Act) are set by the EPA, for haz waste burners. Secondly, the cement plants that are permitted to burn hazardous waste are not allowed to burn toxic waste. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

I don't know for sure, but I'd guess Ms. veryconcernedwoman that you or someone in you family drives a vehicle, more than likely one that has a gasoline or diesel engine, an engine that has to have its oil changed periodically. What should happen to all the used oil that's changed across this country. It can be refiltered only so many times before it must be disposed of. What should we do with all the solvents that are used for various purposes, from dry cleaning your fine clothes to cleaning parts/paints etc. Pour them down the stream, bury them, or thermally destroy them as is done in a permitted cement plant. A plant with continuous emmission monitors that have automatic cutoffs that stop the flow of hazardous waste fuels when any of the numerous sensors detect are out of range.

You are probably one of those people opposed to farmers using fertilizer and pesticides. That's great. But, without the use of such tools, the farmers would not be able to feed the 7 billion people in this country.

All I'm saying is we all want nice roads and bridges to drive on. We want nice homes and buildings. We want affordable food to eat. We need cement, a basic building material for the roads/bridges, home foundations, etc. If we can't produce it here in the US, it will be produced somewhere else, costing thousands of jobs in this country. At what point do we stop this madness. I'm all for clean air and water, but there is a price to pay for all the amenities we enjoy in this country.

tkruzen - the ancient Romans cement consisted of slaked lime mixed with Pozzlana, the volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius. Speaking of emmissions, how many tons of sulfur dioxide is emmitted when a volcano errupts. Many more tons than all the cement plant emit in a year. I don't think we want to depend on volcanos for our cement.

-- Posted by Ski2Trout on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 9:50 AM

Ski2Trout thinks if a volcano emits toxins, it's then ok for his favorite company to dump those same poisons on all of us. Oh yeah, they are small amounts but then these poisons accumulate in the body and don't go away...and we get the same poisons and many others from other sources like drinking water, food and our mama's breast milk.

When you burn tires, paint thinner, waste oil and other "hazardous materials", the results are a pretty steady stream of mercury, lead, dioxin, furans and benzene. Take your pick of these poisons and breathe deeply or drink them if you prefer!

-- Posted by tkruzen@gmail.com on Sat, Nov 5, 2011, at 10:09 AM

I live not to very far from a cemnt plant and my white car gets black once a week.After reading these comments i now know why.And what is really bad is all the people around me and myself have been breathing this stuff for years and dieing from what comes out of those smoke stacks.Some times i'll be driving down the road and look over to the side where this plant sits and see the smoke comming out of those stacks and it is going out about a miles and straight down on the neighbors where i live.Some times it doesn't go very far before it hits the ground.The doctors tell us we get sick because of the way we live,but they don't know where we live do they.Doctors are so smart.

-- Posted by no1netfan on Thu, Dec 1, 2011, at 8:25 PM


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