The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced recently that Houston-based Cemex, Inc., one of the largest producers of portland cement in the United States, has agreed to pay a $1.4 million penalty for Clean Air Act violations at its cement plant in Fairborn, Ohio, acquired by Cemex in 2000. In addition to the penalty, Cemex will spend an estimated $2 million on controls that will reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions.

The settlement addresses modifications Cemex made to its plant without obtaining the proper permit, as required by the Clean Air Act. Major sources of emissions are required to obtain permits that require the installation of pollution control technology before making changes that would significantly increase air emissions. The settlement ensures that the proper control equipment will be installed to reduce future emission levels.

Cemex will install state-of-the-art control technologies at the Fairborn plant that will reduce annual emissions of NOx by approximately 2,300 tons and SO2 by about 288 tons. Reducing emissions from the largest sources, which include cement facilities according to EPA, is one of the agency's National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011-2013. The initiative continues EPA’s focus on improving compliance with the new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act among industries that have "the potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution." In fiscal year 2010, EPA claims, its enforcement actions in the cement manufacturing, coal-fired power plant, glass and acid sectors led to approximately 370 million pounds of pollution reduced or treated, $1.4 billion in estimated pollution controls, and $14 million in civil penalties.

Cemex President Gilberto Perez told the Dayton Daily News that the company voluntarily complied with the agreement, but denies some of the EPA’s allegations, voicing his surprise and disappointment at the implications of the EPA announcement. While a company spokesperson added that claims of the plant's emissions endangering resident's health was "simply false," and that the air quality around the facility exceeds federal ambient air quality standards. The plant is, and has always been, in compliance with its air operating permits, says Cemex.

Under the agreement, Cemex will install new technology to further reduce plant emissions. Selective non-catalytic reduction equipment, along with operational modifications, will minimize NOx emissions, and lime spray absorber equipment will be installed to reduce SO2. This equipment will further reduce these two emissions, which are already below state and federal standards.

The Fairborn plant, with its long history of enriching the local community, is considered an industry leader and has won numerous national and local awards because of its dedication. The Portland Cement Association awarded the facility its coveted Land Stewardship Award honoring reclamation projects that involved establishing wetlands and grasslands spanning 56 acres.

Cemex has more than 14 cement plants, 100 aggregate quarries, and hundreds of ready-mixed concrete plants in the U.S. In January 2009, Cemex agreed to reduce emissions and pay $2 million fine to settle Clean Air Act violations at its cement mill in Victorville, Calif. The Fairborn penalty will be distributed between the United States, the state of Ohio, and the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, serving Ohio’s Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Preble counties. The state will contribute 20% of its share of the settlement to Ohio EPA’s Clean Diesel School Bus Program Fund.

The proposed consent decree lodged with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, is subject to a 30-day public comment period. More information on the settlement can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/cemexfairborn.html

More n EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives is available at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/index.html

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