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House Republicans Move to Undo Protections From Mercury Pollution

GOP targets cement kiln rule, which would cut mercury emissions by nearly 17,000 pounds
January 6, 2011
Washington, D.C. —

Today, House Republicans announced a Congressional Review Act resolution that seeks to undo U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to control toxic emissions from cement plants. The rules would reduce cement plants’ emissions of mercury and other toxic substances by more than 90 percent. EPA scientists have estimated the rules would prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths and thousands of heart and respiratory incidents and save billions of dollars in health costs each year.

"Without these important EPA rules, our families will continue to be exposed to mercury and other toxic pollution from the Lafarge plant in Ravena, New York," said Susan Falzon, with Friends of Hudson. "It sickens me that some of our elected leaders are trying to remove these protections."

The EPA’s finalized protective standards for cement kiln emissions would:

  • Cut mercury emissions by 16,600 pounds, roughly 92 percent
  • Cut particulate matter emissions by 11,500 tons, roughly 92 percent
  • Cut hydrogen chloride emissions by 5,800 tons, roughly 97 percent
  • Cut total hydrocarbons emissions by 10,600 tons, roughly 83 percent

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxicant that can build up through the food chain and interfere with the brain and other parts of the nervous system, resulting in birth defects, loss of IQ and developmental problems. Particulate matter causes serious health impacts on lungs and breathing, including decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing, as well as heart problems. Hydrogen chloride also causes respiratory problems such as coughing, irritated nose and throat, and heart problems.

"These new EPA rules mean less death and disease from pollution in communities hosting dirty kilns," said Becky Bornhorst, chair of Downwinders at Risk. "The cement industry wants you to believe meeting the new regulations will drive them out of business, but that is simply not true."

"Local communities were promised these protections by Congress when it passed amendments to the Clean Air Act 20 years ago," said Jane Williams of Desert Citizens Against Pollution. "This new Congress should not roll back those protections and renege on that promise."

"House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves," said Kelly Stryker with Stop Titan Action Network. "Instead of protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, our kids, the elderly and the poor, they are pandering to the cement industry, one of the nation’s biggest polluters. In my community of Wilmington, North Carolina, Titan Cement wants to build one of the nation’s largest mercury emitting cement plants adjacent to a mercury impaired river and within two miles of our community's elementary and middle schools."

"The House resolution places thousands of American families at risk," said Jennifer Peterson, attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. "Cement kilns are among the top mercury polluters in many states, and the long overdue EPA rules will protect Americans by drastically reducing mercury and other harmful pollution."

"The first, most important concern should be people's health," said Neil Carman of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter in Austin, Texas. "Cement kilns are major sources of toxic pollution known to cause cancer and a host of other serious health problems. Families living near these massive polluters can not afford to have politics get in the way of much needed protections."

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in 2004 to compel the EPA to act on mercury and other air pollution from cement kilns and is currently intervening on behalf of the EPA to protect these standards from industry attack.

To see a map of all the nation's cement kilns, please visit: http://earthjustice.org/features/interactive-cement-kiln-map

Contacts

Jim Pew, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 214

Susan Falzon, Friends of Hudson, (518) 698-8503

William Freese, Huron Environmental Activist League, (989) 464-7612

Becky Bornhorst, Downwinders at Risk, (972) 230-3260

Jennifer Swearingen, Montanans Against Toxic Burning, (406) 586-6067

Jane Williams, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, (661) 256-2101

Neil Carman, Sierra Club, (512) 472-1767

Kelly Stryker, Stop Titan Action Network, (910) 686-6930

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.