EPA Changes Rules For Cement Industry, Cleaning Up Mercury Pollutants


photo via flickr

The Obama administration has been on the receiving end of a lot of heat lately, and deservedly so after it chose to let the climate bill whither on the vine. But lost in the shuffle are many of the other positive steps the administration is taking to preserve our environment. Case in point: Today EPA finalized regulations the will require cement kilns to reduce emissions of mercury and other pollutants by more than 90 percent, a step that will save money and improve public health.The cement industry said it couldn't be done at an affordable price, but industry always says that and their claims must be weighed against independent analysis. EPA says that the changes will result in between $6.7 billion and $18 billion in annual public health and environmental benefits. The cost to the industry? Between $926 million and $950 million to industry annually.

Here's the rundown of what the new regulations will bring: In addition to a 93 percent decrease in mercury emissions,
-- a 92 percent decrease in particulate matter emissions;
-- a 78 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions;
-- and a 97 percent decrease in emissions of acid gases.

Said Administrator Lisa Jackson:

"Americans throughout the country are suffering from the effects of pollutants in our air, especially our children who are more vulnerable to these chemicals. 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."

Cement industry and greenhouse gases
It's a little recognized fact that the cement industry is the 3rd largest emitter of GHGs. EPA's new regulations will not affect the industry's emissions, but the agency is working on rules that will. On the coming months, expect to see a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard, which will attempt to collar the industry's huge amounts of emissions.

More on EPA:
TreeHugger Talks to Lisa Jackson, EPA Chief on New EPA, Youth, CO2: "We Have a Moment" [Video]
EPA Administrator Pens Blog Against Murkowski's 'Dirty Air' Amendment