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Bill would cut back new emission regulations on cement manufacturers
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.
2524 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO