The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement Wednesday with Cemex Inc., under which the company will invest approximately $10 million to cut emissions of harmful air pollution at five of its cement manufacturing plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
Under the consent decree lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Cemex will also pay a $1.69 million civil penalty, conduct energy audits at the five plants, and spend $150,000 on energy efficiency projects to mitigate the effects of past excess emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from its facilities.
“This settlement requires Cemex to use state of the art technology to reduce harmful air pollution, improving public health in vulnerable communities across the South and Southeast,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to tackling clean air violations at the largest sources, cutting the pollutants that cause respiratory illnesses like asthma.”
“The cement sector is a significant source of air pollution posing real health risks to the communities where they reside, including vulnerable communities across the U.S. who deserve better air quality than they have gotten over the years,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will require Cemex to pay a penalty and install important pollution controls to achieve reductions in harmful air emissions, thereby making Cemex a better neighbor to local residents.”
The five Cemex facilities produce Portland cement, a key ingredient in concrete, mortar, and stucco, and are located in Demopolis, Alabama, Louisville, Kentucky, Knoxville, Tennessee, and New Braunfels and Odessa, Texas. The Knox County, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky air pollution control authorities participated in this settlement.
Cemex is required to install pollution control technology that will reduce emissions of NOx and establish strict limits for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, which will improve air quality in local communities. Cemex will install and continuously operate a selective non-catalytic reduction system for controlling NOx at the five plants and meet emission limits that are consistent with the current best available control technology for NOx. EPA estimates this will result in NOx emissions reductions of over 4,000 tons per year. Each facility will also be subject to strict SO2 emission limits.
NOx and SO2, two key pollutants emitted from cement plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. The pollutants are converted in the air into fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Reducing these harmful air pollutants will benefit the communities located near the Cemex plants, particularly communities disproportionately impacted by environmental risks and vulnerable populations, including children.
This settlement is part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative to control harmful emissions from large sources of pollution, which includes cement manufacturing plants, under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements. The total combined SO2 and NOx emission reductions secured from cement plant settlements under this initiative will exceed 75,000 tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information about submitting a public comment is available at:www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees
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