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US cement plants facing new EPA rules

World Cement,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final rules on emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. According to the EPA, the rules are expected to yield US$7 to US$19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs.

"Americans throughout the country are suffering from the effects of pollutants in our air, especially our children who are more vulnerable to these chemicals," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "This administration is committed to reducing pollution that is hurting the health of our communities.  With this historic step, we are going a long way in accomplishing that goal. By reducing harmful pollutants in the air we breathe, we cut the risk of asthma attacks and save lives."

This action sets the nation’s first limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, strengthens the limits for new kilns, and sets emission limits that will reduce acid gases. This final action also limits particle pollution from new and existing kilns, and sets new-kiln limits for particle and smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates the annual emissions will be reduced:

  • Mercury – 16 600 pounds or 92%
  • Total hydrocarbons – 10 600 t or 83%
  • Particulate Matter – 11 500 t or 92%
  • Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5800 t or 97%
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)– 110 000 t or 78%
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6600 t or 5%

EPA estimates that the rules will yield US$6.7 billion to US$18 billion in health and environmental benefits, with costs estimated at US$926 million to US$950 million annually in 2013. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be US$350 million annually.

South Carolina has a cluster of cement kilns in the Harleyville /Holly Hill area operated by Lafarge, Giant Cement and Holcim. Earlier this year, Lafarge agreed to spend US$ 170 million to cut air pollution at the Harleyville plant and 12 others around the country.

The PCA has indicated that five to ten plants across the country could close with the introduction of the new regulations. “Although the standards in the final rule are not quite as stringent as those originally proposed in May 2009, the emission limits are still very low and will not be achievable by some facilities,” said the PCA’s president Brian McCarthy. The PCA had appealed the ruling as late as 5th August.

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