The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week that CEMEX, Inc., the owner and operator of the Portland cement manufacturing facility in Lyons, has agreed to operate advanced pollution controls on its kiln, and pay a one million dollar civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA).
“This agreement will mean cleaner air for Colorado residents downwind of the CEMEX facility and will contribute to improved air quality in the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is one of our nation’s most cherished public spaces,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The settlement is part of the
Justice Department’s continuing efforts, along with the EPA, to bring significant sources of air pollution within the cement manufacturing sector into compliance with the Clean Air Act.”
“Today’s settlement will reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides, which can have serious impacts on respiratory health for communities along Colorado’s Front Range,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Cutting these emissions will also help improve environmental quality and visibility in places like Rocky Mountain National Park.”
The Department of Justice, on behalf of EPA, filed a complaint against CEMEX alleging that between 1997 and 2000 the company unlawfully made modifications at its Lyons plant that resulted in significant net increases of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions. The complaint further alleges that these increased emissions violated the CAA’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Non-Attainment New Source Review requirements, which state that companies must obtain the necessary permits prior to making modifications at a facility, and install and operate required pollution control equipment if modifications will result in increases of certain pollutants.
As part of the settlement, CEMEX will install “Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction” (SNCR) technology at their Lyons facility, which is an advanced pollution control technology designed to reduce NOx emissions. This will reduce their NOx emissions by approximately 870 to 1,200 tons of NOx per year. The initial capital cost for installing SNCR is approximately six hundred thousand dollars, and the cost of injecting ammonia into the stack emissions stream, a necessary part of the process, is anticipated to be about one and a half million dollars per year. The settlement is part of EPA’s national enforcement initiative to control harmful air pollution from the largest sources of emissions, including Portland cement manufacturing facilities.
NOx emissions may cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma. These emissions also contribute to acid rain, smog, and haze which impair visibility in national parks. CEMEX’s facility is located within twenty miles of Rocky Mountain National Park, and its emissions may contribute to visibility impairment and to the nitrogen pollution problem that is affecting the park’s vegetation, water quality, and trout populations. Air pollution from Portland cement manufacturing facilities can also travel significant distances downwind, crossing state lines and creating region-wide health problems.
The proposed consent decree will be lodged with the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado, and will be subject to a thirty-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree lodged last week is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html. For more information about the settlement, please visit www.epa.gov/enforcement/air/cases/cemex-lyons.html, or for more information about EPA’s national enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011airpollution.html.
Sara Engdahl, Director of Communications for CEMEX in Houston, gave the Lyons Recorder the following statement regarding the EPA settlement:
“CEMEX has entered into a settlement with the EPA regarding alleged violations at its Lyons cement plant, which are related to activities between 1997 to 2000, that occurred prior to CEMEX’s acquisition of the facility.
CEMEX believes the prior company that owned the Lyons facility during that time was never in violation of the Clean Air Act, as alleged by the EPA. CEMEX’s discussions with the EPA regarding the alleged violations have been ongoing since 2006. Over the course of these discussions, the EPA amended their complaint to reflect fewer alleged violations.
CEMEX has taken many measures to ensure that the Lyons facility is in compliance with environmental regulations. CEMEX looks forward to closing this matter and moving forward with the successful programs in place at Lyons that focus on sustainability and have resulted in consistent regulatory compliance, voluntary emissions reductions, and environmental excellence.
CEMEX is a global building materials company that provides high quality products and reliable service to customers and communities in more than fifty countries throughout the world. CEMEX’s U.S. network includes thirteen cement plants, forty-six active cement distribution terminals, more than one hundred aggregate quarries and more than four hundred and twenty ready-mix concrete plants. CEMEX USA was named the EPA Energy Star Partner of the Year for 2009 and 2010. For more information, visit www.cemexusa.com.”
Lyons Plant Manager Shane Wilson stressed that from CEMEX’s point of view, these findings by the EPA and the settlement do not reflect the way that the plant or company does business. He reiterated that the alleged violations took place under prior ownership, in the late 90s. Wilson also noted that the million-dollar fine would go to the EPA, and would not be part of a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) similar to the one that Boulder County received a few years ago as a result of a CEMEX fine. Money from that incident was earmarked to improve air quality in Boulder County, and resulted in the free bus passes that are now available to all Lyons residents.