EPA Agrees to Regulate Harmful Toxic Chemicals from Cement Kilns

Agency sets timeline for rules reducing mercury, other hazardous pollutants


James Pew, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500

A federal court today approved an agreement between EPA and Sierra Club to issue regulations that will limit harmful toxic emissions from cement kilns nationwide. The agreement will clean the air for millions of Americans living near these facilities and bring EPA into compliance with federal law.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today approved the consent decree between EPA and Sierra Club, which was represented in litigation by Earthjustice. In June of 1999, EPA issued regulations for Portland cement kilns that failed to set any limits on emissions of mercury, hydrogen chloride, total hydrocarbons and other organic hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), even though the agency knew that cement kilns release these toxins in vast quantities. Sierra Club and Earthjustice challenged EPA’s rule in court, and the court agreed that the agency’s failure to set emission limits was unlawful.

“Four years passed and EPA still had not issued any rules limiting these harmful pollutants,” said Sierra Club’s National Air Committee Chair, Marti Sinclair. “We again took them to court and now have a definitive date by which EPA must issue limits for these toxic chemicals. This delay was unacceptable, and we appreciate the court acknowledging that.”

The agreement requires EPA to adopt regulations for these pollutants no later than May 26, 2006.

There are 137 cement kilns operating in 37 States. According to EPA estimates, these facilities are responsible for emitting approximately five tons of mercury, 580 tons of hazardous organic pollutants, and more than 15,000 tons of hydrogen chloride each year. Cement kilns often burn both fossil fuels and various types of waste that produce especially high levels of toxic pollution.

“We’re glad to see that EPA will finally stop stalling and begin protecting our health and environment,” Pew said.

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