Cement Makers Ordered to Cut Mercury Emissions

Cement Makers Ordered to Cut Mercury Emissions
Published: 10 August 2010

The Obama administration issued the first U.S. limits on mercury air pollution from cement factories, with the Portland Cement Association (PCA) saying that the rules are less strict than those proposed by regulators a year ago.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations will cut mercury emissions and particulate matter by 92 percent a year starting in 2013, the agency said today in a statement.

The rule will yield US$6.7bn-$18bn in environmental and health benefits and cost companies as much as US$950m a year, according to agency estimates. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be US$350m annually.

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 – 16,600lbs or 92 per cent

• Total hydrocarbons – 10,600t or 83 per cent

• Particulate Matter – 11,500t or 92 per cent

• Acid gases – (measured as hydrochloric acid): 5800t or 97 per cent

• Sulfur dioxide (SO2)– 110,000t or 78 per cent

• Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – 6600t or five per cent.

The PCA said the regulations may force 5-10 cement plants to close. As many as 30 factories were at risk under limits proposed last year, according to the group.

“Although the standards in the final rule are not quite as stringent as those originally proposed in May 2009, the emission limits are still very low and will not be achievable by some facilities,” President Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

“This administration is committed to reducing pollution that is hurting the health of our communities,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement today. “With this historic step, we are going a long way in accomplishing that goal.”