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Action Alert
EPA Proposes to Weaken and Delay Cement Rule

The comment period ended August 17, 2012.

Tell EPA not to weaken or delay the rules!

Greeting from Montanans Against Toxic Burning! It's been quite a long time since we came together to oppose Holcim's plan to burn millions of tires in its Trident kiln at the Missouri headwaters. Although it's been relatively calm on the local front, MATB, along with other grassroots groups from across the country, has been working with Earthjustice in Washington, DC, to forge strong, protective federal rules regulating the toxic air pollution from cement kilns. Now that achievement is being challenged by the Portland Cement Association, and EPA is caving to industry pressure.

Once again, we need to rally to protect the air quality in southwestern Montana! Please read the fact sheet below and send your comments to the EPA.

The comment period ended August 17, 2012.

Background: Cement kilns are one of the biggest sources of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, other heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and dioxin. On June 22, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was proposing to weaken and delay clean air standards for cement plants that were set to take effect next year. For more than a decade, EPA had withheld pollution limits for cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic substances even though they were required by the Clean Air Act. An Earthjustice lawsuit on behalf of community groups ended that delay and yielded long-overdue standards in 2010 that required significant reductions in toxic air emissions from cement plants.

Weakening Limits: Now, on the eve of the rule finally being implemented, the EPA is proposing to severely weaken crucial limits on cement plants’ vast emissions of particulate matter—fine soot that includes particles of arsenic, lead, and chromium. These revisions would allow cement plants to emit almost twice as much particulate matter (PM) as the current rule.

No More Continuous Monitoring: Furthermore, the agency is proposing to drop the provision that would require continuous monitoring of particulate matter, replacing it with a requirement to monitor operational parameters—a concession to the cement industry that clearly skirts the intention of the Clean Air Act. To assure compliance with the weakened limit, EPA is proposing that a controlled performance test be conducted once every three years, instead of the previously required continuous monitoring.

Deadline Extended for Industry: On top of that, the amended rule would extend the compliance deadline from September 2013 to September 2015. This means that cement plants would have an additional two years to comply with the weakened standards, although there is no evidence to show that sources could not comply with a revised rule by the existing compliance date. By EPA’s own estimate, a two-year delay would cause between 1,920 and 5,000 avoidable deaths, 3,000 non-fatal heart attacks, and 34,000 cases of aggravated asthma.

Simultaneous Proposal to Allow Solid Waste Burning Without Protections: EPA's gutting of the air toxics rule is particularly irresponsible, given that the agency is proposing in other rules to allow cement kilns to burn "alternative" fuels that previously were classified as solid waste. If approved, as expected, kilns could burn whole tires, scrap plastics, spent solvents, and many other wastes without the more stringent protections that apply to kilns burning solid waste.

Despite Court Decision and No-Vote in Congress: EPA announced these proposed changes after a court settlement with the Portland Cement Association, which had challenged the new rule. However, nothing in the court’’s decision requires that the new rules be weakened or delayed in any way. The EPA’s voluntary decision follows numerous attempts by industry lobbyists to gut the new rules in Congress, all of which were voted down.

Tell EPA not to weaken or delay the rules!

The comment period ended August 17, 2012.

Alternative Comment Instructions

Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID Number EPA-HQ- OAR-2011-0817, by one of the following methods:

  • Federal Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • Agency Web site: http://www.epa.gov/oar/docket.html. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the EPA Air and Radiation Docket Web site.
  • Email: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov. Include EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817 in the subject line of the message.
  • Fax: Fax your comments to: (202) 566-9744, Attention Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817.
  • Mail: Send your comments to: The EPA Docket Center (EPA/ DC), Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0817. Please include a total of two copies. In addition, please mail a copy of your comments on the information collection provisions to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Attn: Desk Officer for the EPA, 725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503.

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