Arizona’s EPA Air Quality Division Associate Director told a crowd today in Clarkdale that "it takes a lot of vision and support from organizational leaders" to accomplish "a difficult and unique implementation on this scale."
Colleen McLoughlin was referring to the dramatic environmental and energy efficient changes accomplished by the Phoenix Cement plant since it was acquired by the Salt River Materials Group.
Friday, the plant was honored with the US Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star award. The plant scored 97 on the Energy Performance indicator used by the EPA to establish energy efficiency. The plant must also have a three-year history of compliance with other environmental regulations.
The award places the plant in the top one-quarter of all cement plants in the country for its sparse use of energy and consequent reductions in emissions.
Years ago, before the plant was acquired by the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian community, Phoenix Cement was routinely criticized for the cloud of dust that routinely escaped the plant and blanketed Clarkdale.
Roger Smith, President and CEO of SRMG told the audience, "We want to be a great neighbor to surrounding cities and towns as well as a great employer."
The Salt River community purchased the plant from Gifford-Hill of Texas. It was not an easy decision for the tribal council.
By 1996, the operation was looking toward improvements. Lou Dodendorf, who is now Energy Manager at the plant, says Phoenix Cement was quoted US$70m, but that proposal would only address productiveness.
The company began looking at other plants to see how to rebuild the plant to be not only efficient, but also environmentally friendly. The company installed a new kiln, new mills for coal, raw meal and finishing.
They were so impressed with a finishing mill that used 40-percent less power, that the plant became the first in the United States to install one.
The giant domes that are now part of the Phoenix Cement skyline control the dust that once escaped from the open storage of the "clinker."
The result is that the plant has dramatically reduced its energy use, while making a huge reduction in emissions.
The plant first became a partner in the Energy Star program in 1997 with a groundbreaking for new upgrades in 2001. The Energy Manager says, even though the company has been awarded the coveted Energy Star, it will continue to look forward toward other technologies, like biomass, solar and other options.
The company even replaced all its vending machines with more efficient Energy Star vending machines.
McLoughlin told the crowd that "Phoenix Cement is a model within the cement industry and should inspire its peers."
The celebration brought together leaders from the surrounding communities for the presentation, a barbeque luncheon and tours of the plant. The gathering was even given a tote bag as a gift. The bag is made out of recycled materials and may itself be recycled.