EPA limits mercury, other emissions from cement plants

Environmental groups offered speedy support.
 
“The cement industry has had a free pass for decades, polluting communities with high levels of mercury, soot and smog, acids, and nitrogen oxides,” Natural Resources Defense Fund staff attorney Avinash Kar said in a statement released by the group. “Fortunately, that’s about to change.”
 
But Brian McCarthy, CEO and president of the Portland Cement Association, argues that the emissions limits are “very low and will not be achievable by a number of facilities.”
 
The new limits will cost the industry “several billion dollars, and require investments in pollution control equipment at a time when available capital is considerably constrained due to the state of the economy,” McCarthy said in a prepared statement.
 
Other regulatory requirements for the industry that are anticipated in the coming years complicate acquiring and installing necessary emission controls needed for the rule released Monday, he added. "This could lead to additional cement plant closures, job losses and a reduction in U.S. cement production capacity,” McCarthy said.
 
The group is still reviewing the matter and has not yet indicated it will file a legal challenge.
 
“We will respond. Exactly what that response will be has not been determined,” spokeswoman Patricia Flesher said. “It’s a big document; we’re all going through it.”
 
EPA is estimating that the new limits by 2013 will reduce industry emissions of mercury and particulate matter by 92 percent, sulfur dioxide by 78 percent, hydrocarbons by 83 percent, acid gases by 97 percent and nitrogen oxides by 5 percent.
 
They are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs, according to EPA. This amounts to estimated environmental and health benefits of between $6.7 billion to $18 billion, while different EPA cost analyses estimate the cost to industry will either be $350 million annually or between $926 million to $950 million annually in 2013.
 
Mercury can damage developing brains of children, and particle pollution has been linked to aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks and premature deaths in adults with heart and lung disease.