Thursday, February 17, 2011

House votes for dirty air; would block EPA from limiting toxic pollution from cement kilns

In a shocking vote only moments ago, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit the US EPA from limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement kilns – the third largest source of mercury emissions in the nation.

This vote is a terrible precedent – it is literally a vote in favor of dirty air. Promoted by the big-polluting cement lobby, the House substituted its judgment for that of the EPA.

This is an irresponsible vote – one that we hope and trust the Senate will reject. It is a classic vote to support special interests instead of the public interest.

The vote came on an amendment to the Continuing Resolution to continue finding the federal government. The amendment was offered by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) who has also filed a Congressional Review Act challenge to the rule.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what the EPA said about the rules last August:

EPA Sets First National Limits to Reduce Mercury and Other Toxic Emissions from Cement Plants
Release date: 08/09/2010

Contact Information: Enesta Jones,, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final rules that will protect Americans’ health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage children’s developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.

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

This action sets the nation’s first limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, strengthens the limits for new kilns, and sets emission limits that will reduce acid gases. This final action also limits particle pollution from new and existing kilns, and sets new-kiln limits for particle and smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates the annual emissions will be reduced:

· Mercury – 16,600 pounds or 92 percent
· Total hydrocarbons – 10,600 tons or 83 percent
· Particulate Matter – 11,500 tons or 92 percent
· Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5,800 tons or 97 percent
· Sulfur dioxide (SO2)– 110,000 tons or 78 percent
· Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6,600 tons or 5 percent

Mercury in the air eventually deposits into water, where it changes into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. Because the developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, women of childbearing age and children are regarded as the populations of greatest concern.

EPA estimates that the rules will yield $6.7 billion to $18 billion in health and environmental benefits, with costs estimated at $926 million to $950 million annually in 2013. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be $350 million annually.

More information:

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