Friday, December 01, 2006

Cement industry makes 11th-hour pitch to White House to avoid cleanup of toxic mercury

With an EPA decision looming, the cement industry has done what industries often do – go to the White House to plea for a break. In this case, the industry is lobbying the White House Office of Management and Budget against any possible EPA plan to clean up toxic mercury from cement plants.

Representatives of the Portland Cement Association and the Ash Grove Cement Company met yesterday to bring their concerns to the White House.

I think it’s deplorable that the cement industry would spend its resources lobbying the White House rather than cleaning up the toxic mess it makes. The cement industry spews huge amounts of mercury into the air.

In its proposal last December, EPA had declared that mercury controls for cement plants were “not justified” and that cleanup technology was not available.

The industry-friendly proposal created a firestorm of protest from environmental groups like Earthjustice and Sierra Club as well as from state and local clean-air agencies and the trade association of the pollution control equipment industry (which noted that it was indeed technically possible to clean up mercury from cement plants).

EPA also proposed an exemption for emissions of toxic hydrogen chloride under the questionable legal theory that it posed little risk to public health. Health and environmental groups have charged that such an exemption is illegal.

In yesterday’s White House meeting, the cement industry reiterated its desire for an exemption.

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