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Enviro-Mich message from "William Freese" <bfreese@verizon.net>


March 4, 2008

Contact: James Pew, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500
Jane Williams, Desert Citizens Against Pollution (661) 510-3412

EPA Finally Sets Plans for Mercury Limits from Cement Kilns
Years of delay means thousands of pounds of mercury pollution gone unchecked

Washington, D.C. - Under intense pressure from states and local and national environmental and public health groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in a <http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/20_epa_motion-to-govern-2.pdf>recent court document plans to regulate mercury pollution from over 100 cement kilns across the country by September 2009. The announcement marks a dramatic shift in EPA policy which, until now, had been to resist requiring mercury controls for cement kilns.

Three times in the last ten years, federal courts have ordered EPA to set emission standards to control cement kilns' mercury emissions. Until now, EPA has ignored these orders and sought to evade them. EPA finally indicated that it would set mercury emission standards in papers filed on February 20, 2008 in a fourth case brought by Sierra Club, Downwinders at Risk (TX), Friends of Hudson (NY), Montanans Against Toxic Burning, Desert Citizens Against Pollution (CA) and the Huron Environmental Activist League (MI), and the States of New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"Cement kilns are among the nation's worst polluters, and their free ride on mercury pollution needs to end at long last," said Jane Williams, executive director of Desert Citizens Against Pollution.

Cement kilns pumped nearly 12,000 pounds of mercury into the air in 2006, according to EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). However, the TRI depends on voluntary emissions estimates that may significantly understate kilns' actual pollution levels. Individual cement kilns in New York, Michigan and Oregon routinely understated their emissions until being required by State officials to conduct emissions tests ­ at which point it became evident that their actual emissions were approximately ten times higher than previously reported. The Lafarge kiln in Ravena, New York previously reported mercury emissions of only 40 pounds. It now acknowledges emitting nearly 400 pounds per year.

"Michigan's biggest mercury polluter is the largest cement plant in North America the Lafarge cement plant in Alpena," said Bill Freese, Director of the Huron Environmental Activist League. It became number one when the largest emitter, a power plant, installed stack scrubbers and pollution control equipment which lowered their emissions by 70%. Lafarge could have cut their mercury emissions by more than 50% by discontinuing the use of the mercury laden Canadian fly ash from Canadian power plants. Like the hazardous waste they incinerated until late 2001 they are paid a generous amount delivered to take it. Old habits are are hard to break. It's about time the EPA did something about this pollution. Its been a long time coming and we hope the EPA lives up to their promises.".

LOCAL QUOTE CAN GO HERE: "New York's biggest mercury polluter is a cement kiln in Ravena," said Susan Falzon, executive director with Friends of Hudson. "It's no mystery that these facilities are some of the bigger mercury polluters in the country. It's about time EPA does something about this pollution and we hope they live up to their promises."

According to a 1991 article in Science News, it only takes 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 25-acre lake. Over 40 states have warned their citizens to avoid consuming various fish species due to mercury contamination, with over half of those mercury advisories applying to all waterbodies in the state.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can impair a young child's ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. EPA says it has been collecting emissions data from various cement kilns across the country. While the mercury pollution from these kilns is staggering, they are also major polluters of other toxic air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds and total hydrocarbons, a known carcinogen [CONFIRM]. In the court documents, EPA also pledged to regulate this pollutant as well.

"It is a good thing Americans can hold their government accountable for breaking the law," said Marti Sinclair, Sierra Club's National Air Committee Chair. "The cement industry far too much clout at EPA. If the Courts hadn't put a stop to its scofflaw behavior, the agency would never have made this industry clean up."

A copy of EPA's Motion to Govern can be found at: <http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/20_epa_motion-to-govern-2.pdf>http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/20_epa_motion-to-govern-2.pdf

Ten Years And Four Lawsuits To Bring EPA Into Compliance With Clean Air Act.

Sierra Club first filed suit in 1998, after EPA failed to meet a November 15, 1997 deadline to issue air toxics regulations for cement kilns. In that case, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the agency to do so by May 15, 1999.

When the agency issued the overdue regulations, however, it refused to include standards to control cement kilns' mercury emissions. Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, challenged that decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which found in 2000 that the agency's refusal violated the federal Clean Air Act and ordered the agency to set mercury standards.

EPA ignored the D.C. Circuit's order until 2004, when Sierra Club brought a third suit, which resulted in an order requiring EPA to issue the required mercury standards no later than December, 2006.

In 2006, the agency issued another rule refusing to set mercury standards. On this occasion, it was sued not only by local and national environmental groups, but also Sierra Club but by Downwinders at Risk (TX), Friends of Hudson (NY), Montanans Against Toxic Burning, Desert Citizens Against Pollution (CA) and the Huron Environmental Activist League (MI), and the States of New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania__ . That case was held in abeyance from 2006 until now, when EPA was forced to indicate whether it wished to set mercury standards or litigate the issue a fourth time. The agency indicated in a motion to the court that it expected to propose mercury standards by "mid-September 2008" and issue them by "mid-September 2009."

"After nearly a decade of litigation and multiple court orders directing EPA to regulate mercury from cement kilns, it seems the agency is finally paying attention," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew.

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